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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 Calculate the True Monetary Value of Your Time

As an entrepreneur, your time is precious. To protect it, you must know exactly what it’s worth.

Nathan Resnick

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Do you know the value of your time? Ken Segall, creator of Apple’s famous ‘Think Different’ ad campaign for agency Chiat/Day, said he got thrown out of a meeting once by the founder of his agency, Jay Chiat.

“Why are you here?” he asked Segall and the art director, who’d shown up with everybody else. “We’re just responding to the invitation,” said Segall. Chiat told them to get lost. “Go create something,” he said.

Jay Chiat knew the value of his creative people’s time. He knew it wasn’t worth it for them to go into that meeting when they could be putting together the next big ad campaign. They were more valuable to the company doing the creative work that made it run than attending a meeting.

That’s what knowing the value of your time can do for you; it tells you what’s most important. Time is the one resource all of us have, but it’s also painfully finite in nature. You can’t bank it — all you can do is invest 
it wisely.

As an entrepreneur, if you don’t know the true monetary value of your time, how are you going to prioritise your business and your life? What does it take to find the monetary value of your time?

Invest your time

Be aware that your time is likely to appreciate in value. If you’re a founder or running a successful business, your time’s value will increase as your business does. Sooner or later, the monetary value of your time is going to surpass the importance of money. It’ll be more important for you to invest your time in moving the business forward because your time is going to be worth more. So, invest your time on process early, lest you spend it later putting out fires.

Related: 5 Time-Management Tools for Small Businesses to Improve Productivity

Crunch the numbers

James Clear

Entrepreneur James Clear decided to approach this problem systematically — he talked to everyone from poker players to executive coaches to figure out what the optimal method of measuring his time’s value was.

Then, he sat down and tracked every hour for three months. The upshot of that time investment was a very clear process that you can use to lay out what your time is worth.

First, figure out the amount of time you spend to earn money. That’s not just time spent working. Are you commuting? That’s time you’re using towards work that’s not going elsewhere. School? That counts. Drop the kids off at school? Add it on.

If it’s related to the time you spend earning money, add it on. Clear’s estimate guesses that most full-time employees and entrepreneurs spend around 2 500 hours a year on this (his exact estimate for himself came out to 2 742).

Then, figure out how much you earn in take-home pay per year. That calculation should be pretty simple, though if you’re a business owner, it’ll be a little more complex as you figure out taxes and withholding.

Divide your total earnings by the hours you spend to earn it. That’s your time’s value.

Surprised? It’s probably lower than you expected, especially if you calculated the extra hours devoted to things like dropping of kids at school or commuting accurately. We don’t often think of our work value in terms of total hours spent.

Related: 6 Reasons Why Time Management Is Such A Waste Of Time

Create a system of checks and balances

You don’t want to just rely on that, though. Maybe you’re being underpaid (or underpaying yourself, if you’re an entrepreneur — don’t laugh, it’s more common than you think). Maybe another factor is throwing it off, or your math has 
an error.

Consider a few other factors:

  • What do other people make to do your job?
  • What would you pay someone else to do your job?
  • What could you make on the open market if you were to go find another job?

Run those numbers against each other to determine an average. For entrepreneurs, this changes everything. Once you understand this number, it’ll change the way you approach everything in your business and your life.

Know what your own time is worth. Remind yourself of it constantly. If you do, you’ll find yourself more productive, more efficient, more satisfied, and more successful.

So, what are you waiting for? Invest wisely.

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(Infographic) 9 Productivity Mistakes You’re Making In The First 10 Minutes Of Your Day

From setting goals to drinking coffee, these bad morning habits might surprise you.

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There are a number of things you’re probably doing every morning that are actually hindering your productivity.

If you’re an avid coffee drinker, you might be surprised to find out that drinking coffee between 8 and 10 a.m can make you more stressed throughout the day. That’s because caffeine early in the morning interferes with the time that the stress hormone, cortisol, is peaking in your body. It’s best to get your fix between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

When you get into the office and try to jump right into the top of your to-do list, you might find yourself confused and not very productive. When you don’t let your brain empty and refresh before starting a project or task, it loses a sense of control, becomes overwhelmed and ultimately, makes you less productive. Something else to avoid is checking email or social media right when you wake up. Typically, after checking your inbox, it takes a person at least 25 minutes to get back into a productive state. If you start your day off reading and responding to email after email, it will take you a long time to get back on track.

Another surprising mistake is setting self-imposed goals. Setting goals and deadlines for yourself might seem like an obvious productivity hack, but it turns out, that’s not the case. Instead, share your deadlines with others and you’ll feel more pressure and responsibility to get things done.

Related: 5 Surprising Elements That Boost Your Productivity (One of Them Is Colour)

Check out resume.io’s infographic below for more productivity mistakes you’re likely making in the first 10 minutes of your day.

1538429589_9-productivity-mistakes-infographics-7934969f76af5ebe1b5b0b84ce9053ec43752717512fb7d9339e84f86afe91d1

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Workflow And Business Efficiency – 5 Strategies You Ignore At Your Peril

Emails alone don’t cut it as an efficient way to communicate with team members. You’re not still depending on email, are you?

Toby Nwazor

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An inefficient business can cost you a lot more than just growth – it can affect your revenue, too. According to a report by IDC, your business runs the risk of losing 20 to 30 percent of your revenue due to inefficient systems.

Unfortunately, many companies still struggle to implement the right systems to improve their workflow. Others have it worse, because they have no systems. In those situations, projects take ages to be completed, more time is spent on menial tasks and teams never seem to get enough done during work hours.

If that describes your company, your company’s profits may start to plummet, too.

Every successful business, then, has clearly defined systems to help the business run like clockwork. Improved workflow, better management and business efficiency save time, increase the bottom line and ensure a higher profit margin.

In fact, in an article on ContractZen, Tim Cummins, president of the International Association for Contract & Commercial Management, wrote that, “The average corporation could boost its bottom line by almost 10 percent if it invested in improving the quality of contracting.

For many companies – especially those in more complex, project-based industries – the prize could be much higher – perhaps as much as 15 percent.”

Related: Become A Life-Hacker

Unfortunately, some companies fail to provide systems that put users first, taking a negative toll on those companies’ workflow and efficiency. The good news is that they’re only five strategies away from turning this around:

1. Automate all you can

automated-emails

From email lists, bookkeeping, invoicing and contract management, to social media posts and payrolls, almost everything can be automated. For a business that aims to be more efficient, automation is a must.

Automation doesn’t just save you time, it can be the one strategy that can guarantee explosive growth and higher conversion rates. According to this Lead Generation Marketing Effectiveness study, 63 percent of companies polled that were outgrowing their competitors said they had automated their marketing.

Automating monotonous tasks that have to be repeated several times during the day helps you be more productive in tasks that require your personal attention.

2. Invest in customer-relationship management software

It’s not uncommon to find businesses that are barely able to keep up with their leads. Some waste hours hunting the low-quality leads instead of focusing their energy on those ready to buy. Here, a customer relationship management (CRM) solution linked to these businesspeople’s network phone system is a great way to enhance customer communications.

Customers value businesses that provide excellent customer service. A CRM solution increases the ability to keep track of customer information, monitor leads and provide efficient delivery. Businesses can provide for their customers’ needs faster and make effective business decisions. With CRM, businesses can also keep their focus on quality leads that will drastically improve conversion rates.

Related: 11 Ways To Maximise Every Part Of Your Day

3. Set up a task-management system

slack-logo

Emails alone don’t cut it as an efficient way to communicate with team members. Email makes it difficult to carry everyone along. However, setting up task-management software like Slack, Trello or Asana makes it much easier to have everyone’s tasks in one place and ensure that everyone is carried along in the project.

Task-management software helps members of a team track their progress and ensure that everyone is working on their tasks.

4. Sync your calendar with that of everyone else on your team

How many times have you had to reschedule appointments because you didn’t know you had other meetings lined up for the day?

Aside from leaving negative impression in clients’ mind, this error makes you less productive. Having to go back and forth until you have settled on an appropriate date can be cumbersome especially when different time zones are involved. So, do this instead: Sync your personal calendar with your work calendar, and make sure that everyone in your team is synced to the latter, too.

This will ensure sure that everybody is “on the same page” in terms of appointments and deadlines. Google Calendar can help you do just that. Once everyone is synced up, any change in the calendar will be seen by everyone so they can manage their own appointments.

5. Block out chunks of time

time-management

Constant interruptions hamper your workflow. Imagine having to deal with turning over a project on a deadline while you’re stuck in a series of meetings throughout the day. It can get very difficult to focus on completing your most urgent tasks.

Block out chunks of time on your calendar for uninterrupted work. It’s better to schedule a series of meetings in one day than to spread them throughout the week.

If you’re creating content, block out one day to create all the content you’ll use for the week. That way your business will run more efficiently.

Related: 3 Reasons You Should Embrace Change

Wrapping it up

With the right strategies, you can turn your business around to make it efficient and lucrative. Automating your processes, setting up the right software and remaining focused on the tasks at hand will go a long way to help you do this. But just as with every good strategy, you need to remain consistent and give it time to do its magic.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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