When I graduated from college, I had no work experience. And that didn’t sit too well with the real life that followed. The result? I repeatedly messed up at work or fell behind schedule because I lacked good productivity habits. Before long, I realised I needed help.
So I turned to productivity apps for answers. In the years since, I’ve tried everything from Asana to ZipSchedules, and I’ve progressed from being basically unhire-able to running my own successful business.
Which got me thinking: There are so many productivity tools out there today that it’s nearly impossible to decide which ones to choose. That’s why I rounded up some of the most productive people I know and asked them what tools they use, on a daily basis, to stay productive. Here are their surprising answers.
1. Andres Moran
Moran is the co-founder of Fundera, a reputable small business loan startup, and Vestable, a marketplace for small businesses. He’s often in touch with other business owners, and his favourite productivity tools are email-related.
Related: Can productivity tools help me?
According to some studies, U.S. workers spend as much as 6.3 hours a day compulsively checking and responding to email. Lowering this number by whatever means necessary should be high on everyone’s priority list.
- Yesware. “This email extension allows you to see whenever someone opens an email you sent. It also shows you their location and whether they viewed your email on mobile or desktop. Beyond that, Yesware allows you to store email templates and schedule emails to be sent at a later time.”
- Rapportive. “Rapportive allows you to see the social media profiles of recipients. The most utility I get out of it is to test different possible email address variations of a person I’d like to cold email.”
2. Preston Pesek
Pesek started his career in real estate on Wall Street but has since turned to running Spacious, the world’s first “time-share” co-working solution. Pesek says he spends a lot of time managing his remote team of employees and responding to emails.
According to surveys, up to 49 percent of millennials support better social tools for workplace collaboration, while 86 percent of employees and executives think a lack of communication leads to workplace failures. Being able to keep in constant touch with decision-makers and team members is key to a healthy organisation.
- Slack. “Can’t live without it. Our team is distributed, mobile, and we work in multiple locations throughout the day. Slack is where we can always find each other, and Slack calls have replaced conference-call UX, video, voice and file-sharing.”
- Mail. “There are lots of slick new apps out there for email, but nothing beats the clean and intuitive interface of Apple Mail. I ride the subway and draft underground. I send and forget, and don’t get that message “failed to send” [as I do with apps] like Slack and SMS. Apple Mail just sends when I’m back online.”
3. Jay Baer
Baer has advised hundreds of blue chip companies on everything marketing related. By the time he started Convince & Convert in 2008, he was well on his way to becoming one of the biggest names in digital marketing. Unsurprisingly, Baer does a lot of traveling and speaking.
In the United States alone, people go on more than 488 million business trips annually to meet with clients and prospects. At the same time, over $213 billion per year (or 1 percent of the 2014 U.S. GDP) is wasted on unnecessary meetings. Streamlining both travel booking and appointment setting can go a long way to cutting costs.
- Tripit. “This keeps all of my travel plans and documents in one place, and easily accessible via laptop, phone or tablet. I travel 180 days per year, and couldn’t survive without TripIt. I’d be wandering around downtown trying to figure out what hotel I booked.”
- Amy.io. “It’s the magic, human-like robot that schedules meetings and conference calls automatically. It offers the best of artificial intelligence, installed to your inbox and calendar. An amazing time-saver.”
4. Eric Siu
Siu is the CEO of Single Grain, a digital marketing agency based in San Francisco. He co-hosts the Marketing School podcast with Neil Patel, and is also the founder of Growth Everywhere, a podcast on startup growth. Siu spends a lot of his time sharing files, and has figured out how to do it as efficiently as possible.
Not counting time spent on TV, radio or video games, the average American consumes over 3.5 hours of online media every day. Every second, over 2.3 million people Google something. That’s a lot of clicking, liking and sharing. Knowing how to share things even faster and with a higher degree of automation is the secret to social media mastery.
- Droplr. “You can take screenshots of things and annotate them quickly. After Dropir takes the screenshot, it copies it to the clipboard and you can share with people. There’s a lot less clicking around and it saves a lot of time each day.”
- Alfred. “A search bar that lets you find any file very quickly or do calculations on the fly. This will allow me to find something very quickly and drag it into Mac to send to somebody. It can even launch apps, run searches in Wikipedia, etc.”
5. Joseph Warwick
Warwick, a content marketing consultant, is the former digital marketing director of Xerox and is currently a content marketing strategist at Blast Analytics. He’s a data-driven social media expert obsessed with tracking how he spends his own time.
Most of us think that we’re being as productive as possible at work. But when the average American worker wastes a median 2.5 hours each day, knowing how to keep better track of your time can be career-changing.
- SproutSocial. “It can be a challenge to respond to social media mentions and requests in a timely fashion, particularly when they’re spread across five or more social channels. Sprout has helped me consolidate all of my social into one place and better manage community engagement.”
- Harvest. “Harvest is a time-tracking tool that’s been a lifesaver and helps me understand whether I am scoping my client projects appropriately and staying profitable with my time.
Productivity is a deeply personal habit
Did you notice that no two people listed the same tool? Perhaps productivity isn’t something that you can just copy and paste from productive people. Maybe it’s more like a culture fit, a way of life that needs to be adapted to each person’s unique personality, work style and needs.
My personal favourite “productivity app” is Google Drive. Not only does it make sharing and real-time collaboration a snap, I also keep my daily to-do list in a Google Doc. Whenever I’m done with tasks, I cross them out. Any tasks that are left unfinished by the end of the day are simply pushed into the next day. It’s simple, but it gets the job done.
If you’re still struggling to be productive, try out some of these apps. Just remember: You shouldn’t use a productivity tool simply because other people do. Figure out what works best for you and stick with it. Sometimes the simplest productivity hacks are the most valuable.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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.
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.
Crunch the numbers
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.
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.
(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.
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.
Check out resume.io’s infographic below for more productivity mistakes you’re likely making in the first 10 minutes of your day.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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?
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
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.
3. Set up a task-management system
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
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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