When managing a small business, well thought out plans and strategies are essential to driving growth for your company. From accounting to marketing, to HR, most companies develop annual plans in each area to plan out their milestones, metrics, and measures of success. No matter which part of your business you’re working on throughout this year, maximizing your productivity is essential to making the most of the limited time you have and staying on track for your plans for the year. While there are countless resources available on maximizing your productivity, keeping up with the latest tips and tricks can be difficult due to the sheer volume of change taking place. Whether you’re still behind and wasting time or are looking for additional ways to improve your team’s efficiency, check out the following three productivity tips enabled by technology in 2018 that will increase your chances of accomplishing your annual goals.
1. Make your phone less distracting.
While there’s no doubt that the modern smartphone allows for some incredible things, it can also be a time-wasting distraction. For iOS users, last year, Apple released a few new features designed to make staying focused on your current task a bit easier. Don’t let the simplicity of this tip fool you: an extra 30 minutes to an hour of wasteful screen time means 26-52 wasted working hours each year.
Being aware of how much time your spending on your phone is the first, and most straightforward step, to maximizing your productivity. Designed to be addictive and engaging, your smartphone can waste enormous time without metrics on how you’re using it. Enable a once a week “Screentime Report” through the iPhone’s default settings and challenge yourself to reduce your usage by 2-5% weekly. Android users can access similar information in the Android Digital Wellbeing report.
You can check which apps you’re spending your time on at any time in the settings menu:
Utilize Do Not Disturb Mode
Do Not Disturb is an excellent feature designed to control interruptions from your phone. If you use an iPhone, you’re most likely familiar with the “Do Not Disturb while Driving” feature that activates when your phone detects you’re in a moving vehicle. Similarly, you can manually enable “Do Not Disturb” mode at any time through the iPhone’s action center. Do not Disturb mode allows essential calls and texts to come through still, silencing everything but the most important of interruptions. Whenever heading into a meeting or collaborating with a team member, activating Do Not Disturb mode is key to maximizing the time you have together and ultimately your team’s productivity.
Control your Notifications
While Do Not Disturb mode is a great tool to control your phone’s distraction actively, you may notice through Screentime reporting that you are passively spending time checking your phone throughout the day. One of the biggest culprits of wasting time on your phone is by checking pointless notifications. By default, you should set your notification to “Off” and only enable them for the most critical of applications. While the exact notification settings you employ will depend on your workflow, consider turning off all notifications excepts calls and texts to handle non-priority issues on your time, as well as eliminating potential distractions.
2. Use a Time Tracker & Project Management Software
We’ve all heard the saying “What gets measured gets done.” While tracking your own time and project progress can seem difficult, it sets a clear example for your team and provides new insights into how effectively you’re spending your time, which allows you to make adjustments to ensure the success of your plan in real-time. Utilize the following software to gain new insights into the resources invested in accomplishing your goals.
Improve how efficiently you, and your team, are using your valuable time through measurement. Numerous time tracking options are now available, with two of the industry leaders, Everhour and Hubstaff, available as desktop applications and browser extensions. While the periodic screenshots the trackers take and their analysis of your keystrokes and mouse movements can feel Orwellian, rest assured knowing that your data is encrypted and only true/false values are being recorded (meaning they can’t tell what you typed or clicked on). By developing an understanding of where your time is being spent, you can make the necessary adjustments to your resource allocation to stay on track with your goals, before a problem arises.
Project Management Software
Record, and celebrate, the individual tasks and contributions of team members that made your success possible. Project management software, like Basecamp or Asana, keeps your company organized, and allows for a great source to review what it took to accomplish your goals. Many studies suggest the effect that writing down your goals and the steps to get their can to have, and a project management software is the easiest way to get your team members on the same page. Additionally, by utilizing a project management software to its full potential, you can gain new insights into your processes and systems that contributed to the overall results of your goals.
3. Explore Browser Extensions
Whether you use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Microsoft Edge, browser extensions are useful additions that speed up your workflow. While there are numerous extensions available, and not all extensions are available for all browsers, the following extensions will save you time and improve your productivity wherever you’re working.
If you aren’t using a password manager yet, or are still writing your passwords by hand in a notebook, there’s never been a better time to start. LastPass is a freemium password manager that stores encrypted passwords online, seamlessly integrating into your existing workflow as an extension for Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge, and is also available as a Windows or iOS desktop app. Additionally, Last Pass offers Premium personal and business level subscriptions to make sharing and collaborating with team members even easier.
Although encryption has existed for a while, what sets Last Pass and other password managers apart today is their ability to integrate with your internet browser. Regardless of the website, Last Pass does an excellent job of both capturing the passwords you’ve used, and filling out login forms moving forward. With an encrypted password manager that integrated directly into your browser, gone are the days of trying 4-5 different possible passwords, and waiting for the reset password email! Additionally, you’ll have all your records in one place with a system to manage and share access with current and new team members.
While Last Pass has been the subject of this article, there are a few other great options available based on the user experience you prefer. Other Password Manager solutions include 1Password, Dashlane, and KeePass.
Check your spelling as you type, no matter where you’re typing. Built by linguists and language lovers, Grammarly helps find and correct hundreds of writing errors- so you don’t have to. From emails to client reporting, Grammarly helps you write like a true professional, without spending hours digging through a thesaurus or a grammar book. Grammarly offers a free version which catches more grammar mistakes than traditional spell check tools, in addition to the standard spell check. Grammarly additionally offers a Premium version that detects a range of advanced writing issues, such as unclear antecedents, or overused words.
Started in 2008, Grammarly has come a long way from their initial offering. Grammarly uses proprietary algorithms to flag potential issues in the text and suggests context-specific corrections for grammar, spelling, wordiness, style, punctuation, and plagiarism. As more and more people continue using Grammarly, the software continues to get better at suggesting style improvements and vocabulary enhancements. Grammarly is now available as a native window or IOS app, an in-browser extension for Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge, or an app on both IOS and Android.
While using a spell-checking tool is incredibly simple and obvious, the advanced tools provided by Grammarly can immensely improve your writing, fostering greater clarity and understanding in a shorter amount of time with whoever you’re working with. Staying on top of your annual plans is like most things in business: communication is vital. In today’s digitally connected world, the key to great communication starts with the clarity and accuracy of your writing!
Find what works for you
The number of browser extensions continues to grow on a daily basis, making it worthwhile to check back in every once and a while for new extensions that you may find useful. For example, a Sales team can utilize the “Hunter.io” Google Chrome extension to find the contact information of relevant C-Suite level executives easily. If your team frequently communicates via screenshots, you may discover Lightshot to be an essential part of your workflow. Lightshot takes a screenshot automatically creates a unique web-based link to share, saving time and reducing clutter from unwanted screenshots.
No matter how you choose to stay productive, at the end of the day, it’s all about focusing on what you do best. As internet browsers continue to be developed and gain new capabilities, take advantage of them! You’ll find having your tools readily available will enhance your productivity and streamline your overall workflow process.
Wrapping it Up
As you head into the new year, take the time to assess your productivity as well as your teams. Maximizing your team’s efficiency isn’t just important in driving great results in a small business, it’s essential to accomplishing your organization’s plans and to staying one step ahead of your competitors. While there are numerous strategies and tactics for maximizing your team’s productivity, don’t overlook the simple tricks and tips enabled by technology in the past year! While these tips won’t accomplish their goal on their own, everything you can do to stay focused on what you do best truly helps!
Looking for more information on Productivity? Check out this short video on the Science of Productivity: