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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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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Royce Cayden

    Feb 3, 2016 at 12:27

    Nice list, Dipti. As an entrepreneur i’m always trying to manage my time in the best way possible. What I have found to be the ultimate productivity hack is to setup a personalized browser start page with all the links and RSS feeds I frequently use. I’m using https://start.me for this and it saves me a few hours per week easily.

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How To Multitask Like Tim Ferriss, Randi Zuckerberg And Other Very Busy People

Nine entrepreneurs tell us how they get it all done.

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Think you’re busy? Take a look at Guy Fieri‘s calendar. Or a U.S. Army general’s. Or an in-demand teenage actor’s. Or the CEO of a globally recognised company’s.

Some of the busiest people on the planet took time out of their days to tell us how they get it all done. Take note!

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6 Questions Entrepreneurs Should Ask When Choosing Medical Aid

As a young entrepreneur, what are the questions you should ask yourself when it comes to choosing a medical aid plan?

Catherine Black

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One of the most valuable assets in any small business is something that entrepreneurs often overlook – their own human capital. Part of making sure that you give the best of yourself to your new business is to make sure you’re in good health, and one way to invest in your health is to make sure you have a solid medical aid policy in place.

Besides being a financial safety net if you get sick or are in an accident, it can also encourage you to stay healthy in the longer term. So, as a young entrepreneur, what are the questions you should ask yourself when it comes to choosing a medical aid plan?

1. How healthy are you?

If you’re young, there’s a good chance you’re relatively healthy and not plagued with serious health issues – but this isn’t always the case. You may have a chronic condition such as diabetes or asthma, where you need regular checkups and medication. If this is the case, will your medical aid plan cover the costs of managing your chronic condition?

2. How much can you spend each month?

If you’re self-employed, you won’t have the luxury of your company paying your salary – or your medical aid cover. Compile a budget and work out exactly how much you can afford to pay towards your medical aid cover per month, bearing in mind that you may have to pay in extra for things like day-to-day medication, medical specialists out of network or even membership fees for your medical scheme’s rewards programme.

Related: Why A Small Business Owner Needs Medical Aid

3. Is there a waiting period involved?

Medical aids are able to apply waiting periods, where you won’t be covered for a certain period of time after you join their scheme depending on your health and previous medical aid cover.

If you’re joining with a pre-existing condition, remember that you won’t be covered for up to 12 months as soon as you become a member, so you’ll need to set aside money for any related costs during this time.

4. Are you planning on starting a family?

As a young entrepreneur, starting a family may be the last thing on your mind – but it’s important to factor this in when joining your medical aid, as it becomes very important later on. This is because you can’t join a medical scheme if you or your spouse is already pregnant (just as we explained in point number 3, there’s a 10-month waiting period for the “pre-existing condition” of pregnancy). Things like maternity benefits can be a lifesaver in terms of footing the bill for pregnancy and birth costs, so it’s worth thinking about this long before you’re ready to settle down.

5. What does the hospital plan offer?

If you’re young and healthy, chances are you’ll most likely opt for a hospital plan, so don’t just compare medical schemes in general – compare their hospital plans specifically. A hospital plan has the lowest premiums but also the lowest coverage: generally, it covers you if you’re admitted to hospital, but you pay for any other day-to-day medical expenses such as doctor visits and medication. Many hospital plans also come with the option of a medical savings account (MSA) attached, where you can access a certain portion of money per year for these day-to-day expenses. Others, like Fedhealth’s MediVault offering, take this even further – you can “borrow” a certain amount of money for day-to-day medical expenses from the Scheme, and then pay it back over 12 months, interest-free.

Related: Why Employees Need Funeral Cover

6. What does the fine print say?

Before you choose a medical aid plan, make sure you know exactly what’s covered and what’s not, including things like in-network and out-of-network hospitals, co-payments, limits and exclusions. Also research the scheme’s pay-out rate: do they pay medical aid rates or higher rates, which many hospitals and specialists charge?

Owning your own business is about investing in yourself, including your time, your ideas – and your health. It’s also about juggling lots of balls in the air at the same time. With a solid medical aid plan in place, you can at least know that you have your health looked after should something happen – which means your business can keep going and thrive well into the future.

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4 Psychological Reasons Entrepreneurs Should Embrace Procrastination

Do you struggle with procrastination at the office? If so, believe it or not, it might not be such a bad thing.

Lucas Miller

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There’s always something you’d rather be doing. Even right now, you might be reading this article in an attempt to avoid carrying out a less palatable endeavor.

Procrastination is normal, and especially so these days. Social media, streaming television and movies, the ease of internet access, and the ubiquity of smartphones can all distract. There are ample reasons why people procrastinate, and it’s always been thought of as a blockade to productivity.

But the perception of procrastination doesn’t always match the reality.

“Procrastination is not just avoiding or delaying a task,” says David Ballard, head of the American Psychological Association’s Center for Organisational Excellence. “It also has to include an aspect that’s counterproductive, irrational or unnecessary.”

In fact, active procrastination can often help you get more things done. Below are four psychological reasons entrepreneurs should sometimes lean into procrastination

1. Procrastination helps spur creativity

West Wing creator and Molly’s Game director Aaron Sorkin once said on the Today show, “You call it procrastinating, I call it thinking.” Sorkin puts off writing sometimes until the last minute, and the results speak for themselves.

Even if we’re not all award-winning writers, when you’re putting something off, it doesn’t have to be a distraction. It can simply be a break, and that break can open up a world of new ideas.

When you allow yourself more time to sit and think about what you’re working on, different pathways to a result can bubble into your brain. A 2012 study in Nature discovered – through brain imaging – that the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) lay largely dormant when rappers were free-styling. Some athletes might even refer to this as “the zone.”

For entrepreneurs, procrastination might be just the thing to trigger an answer that would be impossible to reach if they didn’t let their minds wander away from the task at hand.

Related: Are You A Procrastinator? Don’t Be By Doing These 3 Things

2. Procrastination aids memory recall

In 1927, Lithuanian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik first discovered how interrupting an event can actually help people remember it. After her professor noticed waiters at a nearby cafe remembered open tabs better than those that had already been paid, she tested the hypothesis by giving a series of puzzles to people to complete, while subtly interrupting half of them.

Those that were interrupted were able to recall details with 90 percent more accuracy than those who were allowed to complete the task. The Zeigarnik Effect was borne.

The same could be said for today’s entrepreneurs. Breaking for lunch, hitting the gym, reading a book, jumping on another task or simply staring out the window can help you better remember the various moving parts in the mission you’re trying to finish.

3. Shockingly, procrastination can enhance focus

This seems like a paradox on its surface. How can you focus better by interrupting what you’re doing – i.e. procrastinating?

Instead of bearing the monotony of working on a single task until it’s done, it’s more helpful to move away – at least briefly. Concentration wanes if we don’t break up the the tedium. Similar to triggering creativity, we’re better able to concentrate if we take a brief blow.

study in 2011 looked at this psychological effect. Subjects were asked to remember random digits while performing a visual task. They found that once people were asked to recall the digits, their performance on the visual task declined over time. But when researchers interrupted the visual exercise with sporadic reminders of the digits, their visual scores remained high no matter the duration.

The short of it: Take a break every once in a while, even if you’re on deadline.

4. Procrastination often yields better decision-making

Oftentimes, entrepreneurs will receive an important email that needs an answer. There’s no hard timetable on the answer, but because of the weight of the question, people drop everything to arrive at an answer. If you don’t take a moment to sit back and let the full import of the question sink in, you’re liable to make the wrong decision.

Researchers at Columbia performed an experiment to test this idea. Would a little more time actually lead to better decisions?

Related: 6 Steps To Go From Procrastinating To Productive

First, they asked the subjects to determine which direction a set of black dots was moving across the screen. At the same time, a cluster of coloured dots starting moving to distract them. Participants were asked to judge as quickly as possible.

When the coloured dots moved in the same direction as the black dots, the results were basically perfect. But when they moved in opposite directions, the accuracy dropped.

Second, they performed the exact same experiment, but subjects were asked to answer when they heard a clicking sound, which they varied between 17-500 milliseconds – a time span meant to mimic real-life decisions, like driving. Researchers found that when decisions were delayed by about 120 milliseconds, their accuracy significantly improved.

However, the researchers differentiated between prolonged and delayed decision-making. If subjects made the decision too quickly, the brain was still filtering out the distractions (coloured dots). But if it took too long, it could be hindered by other distractions.

The same could be said for procrastination. Procrastinate too much, or for too long, and nothing will ever get done. But, as we’ve seen, there are some serious psychological benefits to procrastination.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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