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7 Tools To Increase Productivity And Efficiency

Whatever you think your organisation needs, it comes down to getting more done with what you have.

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Today’s businesses are driven by productivity and collaboration. But how do you achieve both in a way that benefits everyone on your team? How do you avoid the inevitable obstacles: Priority management, strategy alignment, and transparency?

Luckily, the small business community has noticed a recent uptick in productivity and collaboration. Why? Many newer online tools have made it easier for teams to communicate clearly, prioritise tasks, delegate responsibilities, and hold themselves (and each other) accountable. From there, it’s just a matter of finding out which tool is right for your business.

Check out these seven tools for increasing productivity and efficiency to see which ones meet your needs.

1. Connecteam

connecteamThere’s an app for that – and your business! With Connecteam, you create your own branded employee app with which to communicate, clock in, and more. This tool is valuable for businesses with large numbers of remote workers who may not enjoy the same in-office privileges that other employees have.

Via your customised app, those remote employees can view and create project checklists, upload files, view work schedules, create informational libraries, and even train for new positions.

The app can be created in just over an hour. However, for employees who aren’t used to company apps, there may be a bit of a learning curve.

Related: Can productivity tools help me?

2. WorkflowMax

WorkflowMax-logoWant 626 hours of time back? On average, that’s how much time WorkflowMax saves its clients – along with $22,000 a year. This tool is perfect for businesses and freelancers who provide a service and bill based on time. Without much effort at all, employees can track time spent on various tasks and remain accountable for their work.

WorkflowMax allows users to create professional, instant quotes for potential clients, then invoice them later on with equally professional-looking forms. Users can even build timelines for special projects and view productivity analytics within the program. For a low monthly price, it’s never been easier for service-based businesses to stay organised.

3. Pocket

get-pocket-logoNo matter how good you are at avoiding procrastination, you’re bound to come across irresistible articles and videos somewhere on the Internet while you’re working. But wait — not clicking on it now doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to see it. Pocket lets you save distracting links and useful articles for later with a simple button, which is installed via extension onto your web browser.

Whether it’s the link to a client’s website, a PDF that needs to be edited, or an infographic you’d like to someday share on social media, you can put it in your Pocket.

Too many items saved already? You can tag your links and docs for organisational purposes, so nothing will get lost.

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

4. Cyfe

Cyfe-logoCyfe lets you organise what would otherwise be indecipherable data. The program acts as your business’s data dashboard, where site visitors, adwords metrics, keyword rankings, and social media success can be accessed altogether. Pre-built widgets from MailChimp, Shopify, and many more let you customise your dashboard to view the information you want to see. With all your data in one place, it’s easy for the whole team to keep track of the big picture.

5. Trello

Trello-logoSome people use Trello for grocery lists, and some people use it for their high-growth businesses. Some people use it for both — it’s that intuitive. You set up boards, which can be assigned different tasks. Those tasks are easily moved around, tagged with other users’ names for delegation purposes, and checked off once completed. It’s an ultra-fluid to-do list, and it’s perfect for those who prefer to keep track of tasks the easy way.

Related: 10 Productivity-Boosting Tools

6. 1Password

1Password-logoStop using your mother’s maiden name or your childhood nickname as your password. It’s understandable — you’re worried you’ll forget your password, so you make it super simple — but you’re practically inviting scammers and hackers to your virtual doorstep. Instead, go ahead and generate an uber-complex password and save it with 1Password.

This little tool lends you peace of mind and extra time at once by storing your passwords securely and auto-entering them for you on selected sites and programs.

With 1Password Teams, administrators can grant and revoke access to shared vaults, as well as save time solving company phishing scams. No matter the size of your business, it can probably benefit from 1Password.

7. Office 365

Office-365-logoMost of the above products are developed and managed by start-ups or small to mid-size businesses. Of course, Office 365 is the product of Microsoft: One of the biggest companies on the planet. This means it has an incredible array of powerful features surrounding email management, file sharing, and online meetings.

OneDrive provides an excellent cloud storage solution for businesses, while Skype for Business makes web communication a breeze. Start small with Office 365’s Business Essentials package, or shoot straight to Premium for added amenities, like the Microsoft Office suite and HD video conferencing.

In the end, it’s all about what exactly your organisation needs, but odds are it can benefit from a bit of added productivity and efficiency. These tools will help you get your teams on the same track, prioritise major projects, and delegate tasks until you’ve achieved just that.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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13 Ways to Develop Laser-Like Focus

Here are some surprising ways to help boost your focus and performance

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If you want to be successful, you have to find strategies that will help you focus despite all of the distractions that prevent you from doing the task at hand. Luckily, with the help of science, developing laser-like focus is easier than you think.

To start, make sure you’re sleeping well and getting regular exercise. These are the basis of productivity, performance and focus. Next, simply look at the colour red – just the sight of red can boost performance and focus.

If that doesn’t work, turning up the thermostat in your office is another option. According to research, people who work in a room set to around 25 degrees are more successful and focused than people in colder work spaces.

There are plenty of things you can do to boost your ability to focus. To learn more, here are 13 ways to develop laser-like focus:

1. Sleep

Here’s a no-brainer: sleep has a direct link to cognitive functions such as the ability to focus and perform. According to the National Sleep Foundation, quality sleep, which is between seven to nine hours, helps us think clearly, remember more and make decisions.

Related: Your Crazy Erratic Sleep Routine Is Making You Less Productive

A lack of sleep can result in an inability to pay attention and focus, lower productivity, slower reaction times and forgetfulness.

2. Use the ABC method

According to Harvard Business Review, our brains are constantly distracted by “internal and external environments,” meaning thoughts, sounds or interruptions. One way to prevent distractions is the ABC method.

As HBR explains, ABC stands for: aware, breathe and choose.

To start, become aware of your options by choosing whether to pay attention to distractions. Next, breathe and relax while you choose to focus or get distracted.

meditate3. Meditate

From stress to anxiety, meditation has long been known as an incredible tool in managing emotions. Another advantage of meditation is its ability to help people focus.

Related: Work Smarter: Margaret Hirsch’s Success Habits

Researchers found that after three months at a meditation retreat, people came out with an incredible ability to focus and an overall improvement in cognitive functions.

4. Get dressed up

The saying, “Dress to impress,” stands true. When people dress up in order to prep for a particular project or task, their ability to focus goes up. According to a study, students who wore white lab coats while conducting experiments made half the amount of errors as the students who were dressed regularly.

5. Don’t multitask

While multitasking might sound like the more productive thing to do, it actually has a negative effect on your ability to focus.

Related: For Vusi Thembekwayo, Focus Leads To Big Wins

According to the American Psychological Association, multitasking and constantly switching between tasks will actually take away from focus because you’re not allowing yourself time to adjust to one thing.

6. Turn up the heat

According to research, a warmer workplace will help you focus better and be more productive. In fact, one study found that a group of workers in a room set to 68 degrees made nearly 44 percent more errors and were half as productive than employees in a 77 degree room.

plants-in-office7. Go green

Plants around the office have long been known to have a positive effect on employee morale, focus and productivity. However, it turns out you don’t necessarily need actual plants for this. In a study, a group of researchers found that by taking a 40-second break and simply looking at a computerised image of a green roof, employees’ focus on a particular task improved.

8. Look at the colour red

Whether it’s the colour of your bedroom walls or the background image on your computer screen, colour has a major effect on us psychologically. A 2009 study published in Science found that when people saw the colour red while they were focusing on certain tasks, their performance, memory and attention to detail improved.

9. Use natural light

Working 9-to-5 in a windowless room with artificial light is far from motivating and in fact can be downright distracting. A study found that people who work in offices filled with natural light experience substantially less eye strain, headaches and blurred visions, all of which deter focus and performance.

10. Get your cardio in

From better sleep to lower stress levels, exercise has many benefits, and that includes improved focus and performance too.

In an article published in Harvard Health, researchers found aerobic exercise increases the size of the area in a person’s brain called the hippocampus, which in turn results in better memory and thinking skills.

However, this was not the case for exercise such as weight lifting and muscle toning, which had little to no impact on a person’s cognitive abilities.

11. Drink some coffee

According to research, a moderate amount of caffeine – around one to two cups of coffee a day – is beneficial to a person’s focus, alertness, performance and mood. However, it’s important not to overdo it, which can result in dehydration, anxiety and headaches.

12. Take a break

It might sound ironic, but taking breaks can actually help improve focus. Research shows that short breaks restore a person’s motivation and help them achieve long-term goals.

Related: How to Train Your Brain to Stay Focused

According to an article published in Psychology Today, “Research suggests that, when faced with long tasks (such as studying before a final exam or doing your taxes), it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task.”

13. Listen to classical music

Save your favorite rock or rap album for after work. Researchers from Stanford University discovered that classical music in particular triggers the part of the brain used for paying attention and focusing.

Why classical? According to the study, people’s minds tend to wander while listening to music but because classical music features many “transitional points” where there is silence, it helps keep people aware and attentive.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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5 Lame Excuses That Unsuccessful People Always Make

You need to eliminate these five excuses from your mindset immediately.

Jonathan Long

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Even the most determined and motivated entrepreneurs will come up with excuses as to why he or she cannot do something. Obstacles arise and then self-doubt enters the mind – making an excuse is the easy way out.

I made excuses in the past – several times. Looking back, those excuses resulted in missed opportunities and ultimately failure. It doesn’t matter if you want to lose weight, get an online MBA, hit a specific revenue milestone or start a business – excuses will be the cause of failure. Here are five excuses to remove from your mindset immediately – they are complete BS.

1. “I don’t have time”

Time is our most valuable asset. While we only have 24 hours in a day, we make time for things we want – people we want to see, activities we want to do, etc. The only thing getting in the way are excuses.

Have you ever been in a relationship and the other person dropped the “If you really wanted to see me, then you would make time” line? I know I have heard it several times in the past, and guess what? None of those relationships worked out because I didn’t want to put in the effort.

The same applies to entrepreneurship. Want to start a business but you are working a nine-to-five? Get up earlier or stay up late – if you want it bad enough you will make the time.

Related: Motivation-Boosting Tips From 8 Of The Greatest Entrepreneurs

2. “There aren’t enough opportunities for me”

If there are walls or barriers standing in your way you need to figure out how to get around them, or simply plow right through them. There is nothing easy about being an entrepreneur. There is never going to be a simple straight line from point A to point B.

Saying there aren’t enough opportunities is an excuse that allows you to quit before you even start. Create your own opportunity – figure out how to solve a problem and you can write your own ticket.

3. “I don’t want to risk disapproval from family and friends”

You need thick skin to play this game and not let the opinions of others influence your decisions. If your friends aren’t supportive, then you need new friends. While you can’t get a new family, you can remove yourself from their negative energy.

I was lucky to have had very supportive parents growing up. My dad was my biggest support system when I was just starting out, and the reason I became an entrepreneur. He passed away several years ago, but still remains my number one source of motivation – I bust my butt daily because I know how proud he would be.

The odds are very high that there will be family and friends telling you that the chances of succeeding are slim and that you should take a more secure or stable path — ignore them. It’s easy to agree with them, because it gives you an easy way out. Use their disapproval as motivation and wake up each day hungry to prove them wrong.

4. “I should be content with where I am and what I have”

Life is very short – the average lifespan in the U.S. is 78 years – that’s 28,470 days. Not very long when you think of it that way, right?

You should never be content and always strive for more. I have been going to night runs lately, taking advantage of the cooler weather this time of the year in Miami. The other night while running I was paying attention to the cars driving by – Phantom, Lamborghini, Ferrari, etc. – all the exotics were well represented.

Now, material possessions like cars don’t necessarily translate to happiness, but they do indicate one thing: The people driving them – or the people that bought them – were not content with average. Saying you are content is the equivalent of saying you don’t want to work any harder.

Related: Successful Adulting: Why Studying Isn’t So Scary

5. “I’m scared of the risks involved”

No risk, no reward.

It’s as simple as that. You have to accept that fact that every entrepreneurial venture or opportunity comes with risk, and a lot of it.

Take a look at some of the most successful entrepreneurs and companies and you will see that there was always a lot of risk involved. Elon Musk received $180 million from the PayPal acquisition and he put $100 million in SpaceX, $70 million in Tesla and $10 million in Solar City. He then had to borrow money for rent.

Was he scared of the risks involved? Not a chance. Very few people would take $180 million dollars and roll it into new ventures – they would be on a permanent vacation. The risk was well worth it, as Musk is worth about $21.5 billion today.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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How To Work Less And Still Get More Done

How you work is far more important than how much you work.

Travis Bradberry

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Some people have an uncanny ability to get things done. They keep their nights and weekends sacred and still get more done than people who work ten or 20 hours more per week than they do.

A new study from Stanford University shows that they are on to something. The study found that productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours, and productivity drops off so much after 55 hours that there’s no point in working any more. That’s right, people who work as much as 70 hours (or more) per week actually get the same amount done as people who work 55 hours.

Smart people know the importance of shifting gears on the weekend to relaxing and rejuvenating activities. They use their weekends to create a better week ahead.

This is easier said than done, so here’s some help. The following are some things that you can do to find balance on the weekend and come into work at 110% on Monday morning.

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