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5 Software Solutions for Better Time Management

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Better Time Management

As an entrepreneur, one of the most difficult things to manage is your time. You wear multiple hats, trying to balance everything from checkbooks to customer complaints and internal affairs with your employees. Making sure you have time for all of that, plus a personal life to keep you sane, is just as important as it is challenging.

While discipline and hard work are certainly answers to time management concerns, there are other solutions worth exploring. In particular, consider these five software programs that have already been proven to help improve time management and overall productivity.

1. Project Management Software

If you were able to work through the COVID-19 pandemic, you probably became familiar with at least one type of project management software. These tools made it possible for teams to continue working together despite not meeting in the same place. Even as offices return to normal, project management software is still seeing use because of how helpful it can be for time management.

Project management software can help you manage your time in many ways. Delegating tasks can be done much more quickly, and roles can be assigned publicly for the whole team to see. Many software programs include messaging capabilities to send quick updates and questions, whether you’re on your computer or mobile device. Most programs also allow you to integrate other apps such as Google Drive and Zoom.

Your entire team will become more efficient thanks to the features that project management software provides. Meeting times can be cut down due to increased communication, and resources can be more easily stored and accessed within the program. Over time your team will adapt the software to its needs making it become increasingly effective as time goes on.

2. Time-Tracking Software

One of the best ways you can improve your time management is to keep a daily record. You can do this on paper, but you’ll have a much easier time using time-tracking software. Not only is it faster to track your time through a digital program, but the software often comes with additional, helpful features.

One such example is Calendar, the aptly named online calendar application. One of its features is time analytics. As you update your events and appointments within Calendar, it breaks down your daily and weekly time usage. This allows you to visualize how your time is being spent. You may notice you’re spending too much time in meetings and not enough time networking thanks to these analytics.

Time tracking will also help you keep yourself accountable to projects and commitments. For entrepreneurs trying to get a start-up going this is especially important. Time tracking ensures that you’re putting in the effort required for success while still spending quality time with your family and friends.

3. Checklist Software 

When you have so many tasks staring you in the face it’s difficult to decide where you should start. Do you need to begin your day by checking emails, or should you finish that high-profile sales pitch first? What you need is a good game plan for your daily checklists. The less time you spend mulling over your to-do list, the more time can be spent toward action.

The first step is to make good lists. Checklist software can provide good templates for your to-do lists. You can organize tasks by type and urgency while adding colors and designs to set them apart. Visualizing your checklists will improve your ability to complete them.

Ranking your to-do list and prioritizing items in your schedule will be a little tougher. Try something like the Eisenhower Matrix to help determine which tasks should take precedence each day.

4. Automated Scheduling Software 

When it comes to time management, automation will always be your best friend. The more tasks you can automate, the fewer things you have to worry about each day. This frees up a lot of time for you to focus on a more concentrated list.

Let’s say you operate an appointment-based business. Clients can use automated scheduling software to book their appointments without needing to go through an agent. All of the time and effort needed to schedule appointments is now spent by the customer.

You can use automated scheduling software within your organization as well. A scheduling link can be shared with employees who might want to meet with you periodically. That same link can be shared with other companies or investors who work with you for optimized communication.

5. Knowledge Base Software

Also known as help center software, knowledge base software allows you to set up self-service content for your customers. A common use for this software is creating a Frequently Asked Questions page for your website. Informative blog posts or tutorial videos also fall under this category.

Such a tool is extremely valuable for small business owners who are more likely to be answering questions for customers. If prospective clients can get their questions and concerns answered on your website, there will be fewer calls to field and emails to respond to. Since most of these customer interactions can’t be planned for in advance, you’ll have an easier time sticking to a concrete schedule while building your business.

In addition to this list, there are many other types of software solutions that can help you better manage your time. Give at least one of them a try this month and pay attention to your time usage. Compare it to last month, and you’ll see which solutions are actually fixing your problems.

5 Ways to Up Your Workplace Efficiency

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workplace efficiency

“Work smarter, not harder,” they say. We’ve all heard this modern productivity axiom by now, but there’s actually a lot of truth in the statement. Working hard is important, but working efficiently is even better. The two combined can lead to incredible results.

So, what’s the secret to making work more efficient? This is a question that business owners and managers ask themselves every day. This article outlines some ways employers can enable and motivate their workers to become even more efficient without working them into the ground.

1. Implement Self-Service Options

This one is a no-brainer for appointment-based businesses operating in the modern era. Self-service can open up so many possibilities for both your business and its customers. For example, having online booking options takes a huge load off of your employees and simultaneously empowers your customers. Clients can set and adjust appointment times whenever they want, and employees no longer have to spend hours on the phone coordinating bookings.

This frees up a lot of time for your employees during a regular shift. Instead of manning the phones all day, they can work on other projects. This could be as simple as staying on top of office organization or taking part in training to prepare for other roles.

In addition to online appointment scheduling, you can implement a self-check-in system for when customers arrive to their bookings. A tablet or kiosk can do all of the work that a front desk representative can. Customers can signal their presence and make relevant notes in their customer portal upon their arrival.

2. Embrace Office Automation

Businesses have myriad ways to automate processes, from CRM systems that will auto-email leads to social media tools that will auto-post on Instagram. But even humbler forms of automation can improve your workplace efficiency. There are myriad small tasks that consume workers’ attention during the day. A coffee maker set to auto brew will give your office manager 15 minutes back each morning, and that’s just one example.

A smart thermostat saves energy and keeps the temperature even so that extreme heat or cold don’t throw your employees for a loop. Smart light fixtures are likewise energy efficient and can also be set to dim or turn off without any human intervention. No one will have to traipse through the office at the beginning or end of the workday turning lights on and off. While these solutions might seem small, together they can make your workplace more efficient than you realize.

3. Retool — or Replace — Meetings

Companies waste a lot of time in meetings. Some estimates state that over 30 hours are squandered each month in meetings that aren’t necessary. Simply put, most meetings can be condensed or bypassed entirely to allow for greater workplace efficiency.

One solution is to plan meetings more effectively. Have an agenda prepared and share it with all participants beforehand. Practice getting to the point and rein in discussions to make sure the group doesn’t get sidetracked. Better yet, replace frequent meetings with constant communication through technology.

Take project management software, for instance. Instead of a status update meeting, you can use a digital chatroom to send messages, updates, and reminders. These can be addressed to the entire company, a specific department, or even to an individual. Such communications keep parties informed and don’t cut into productivity like a formal meeting where everyone is trapped inside a room with no escape.

4. Crunch the Numbers

The value of data cannot be underestimated. Insights gleaned from data can help you serve your customers better, increase revenue, and also make your workplace more efficient. Gathering data is easy; it’s knowing what to do with the data you have that’s the trickier part.

Let’s focus on workplace efficiency, which you can monitor with a time-tracking tool like Toggl or Harvest. Here are some examples of workplace data you can track:

  • Number of tasks completed on average per day
  • Amount of time spent per task
  • Amount of time spent per task category
  • Average time spent in meetings
  • Hours worked per week

This doesn’t have to be your full list, but it’s certainly a good place to start. Once you have a sufficient sample size, you can start to make some conclusions about what needs to change to increase productivity and efficiency. You may notice that efficiency takes a huge dive for the last hour of the day, for example. You might opt for a shorter workday or add an additional 15-minute break to try to keep energy levels high.

5. Improve Employees’ Quality of Life

No matter what the numbers say, sometimes the best adjustments you can make are to the quality of life in the office. Happy employees are more productive employees, so seek out work-life enhancement opportunities. Ergonomic solutions such as sit-stand desks and optimized keyboards can help employees work more comfortably for longer periods of time. Improved lighting can make early mornings and gray days more bearable.

Helping your employees outside of the office will often improve their efficiency on the clock. Benefits such as hybrid work or childcare services give workers fewer things to worry about at home, so they’ll be less distracted while working. Workers who also feel cared for by their employers are also more likely to stick around for the long haul. High retention rates improve company efficiency, as you won’t be spending a lot of time and resources on constant training and hiring cycles.

With greater workplace efficiency, you’ll see improvements in company profits, customer satisfaction, and work quality. To maintain optimal efficiency, you’ll need to continue to adapt, so keep looking for new ways to enable your workers to be the best they can be.

Image Credit: Pixabay; Pexels; Thank you!

How to Help Your Team Prepare for Summer Vacation Season

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Summer Vacation

Summer vacation is upon us, and it’s a popular time for employees to take time off. Maybe they plan on traveling with their family or taking a few weeks to spend quality time with their kids at home. Either way, it’s a good idea to help your employees prepare to ensure a seamless absence.

This article offers tips to prepare for summer vacation. From having employees request time off early to integrating collaborative technology, here’s everything you should know:

1. Get Time Off Requests Early 

Summer is a busy time for vacations. Chances are, your employees are planning a few trips they don’t want to miss. That’s why it’s important your staff notifies you of their vacation plans early. This will help you prepare for their absence in advance, so you can avoid being understaffed.

Most companies want their employees to submit time-off requests sooner rather than later. Not only does that increase the likelihood you’ll approve their time off, but it helps you assign work accordingly. To ensure this happens, consider sending out an email reminding your employees to submit their summer requests.

You should also include a note to ensure workers know their requests may not be approved. While you want your employees to enjoy the summer, the truth is, you can’t always approve everyone’s time-off request. Make sure you set realistic expectations.

2. Display Time Off Requests

Instead of having employees blindly submit time-off requests, consider having a board that displays everyone’s availability. This way, if an employee sees several people are approved off one week, they’ll know to avoid requesting that time. And instead, they might request their time off for the following week when more people are in the office.

Some companies use software to display everyone’s approved time off. This is a great option, but it  could be costly, depending on the service. If you’re a small business, using a physical calendar or an online alternative could work. Just make sure your employees have access to each other’s calendars and mark their time.

The more transparent you are about approved time, the more seamless it’ll be for employees. In addition to displaying approved time off, make sure you track it as well. It’s important employees can see how much time off they’ve acquired, and what they have left.

3. Make Sure They Plan Ahead

Just because your employee won’t be in the office, doesn’t mean their responsibilities disappear. It’s important they tie up any loose ends before vacationing and communicate with whoever will be covering for them.

For instance, let’s say you work in customer service. Your employees could reach out to their clients to let them know they’ll be out of office. You should also advise them to provide clients with an alternative contact, in case of an emergency. Another good idea is to have your employees set up out-of-office email responses to automatically send when someone reaches out.

You could also have your employees create an out-of-office checklist for their team. This can help prepare others for anything that’s due while they’re out. It’s also a good idea to have employees mark themselves as absent on any communication/project management tools the company uses. This will hopefully keep co-workers from reaching out to people while they’re out of the office.

4. Explore Hybrid/Remote Options

The pandemic forced thousands of employees to work from home. But even now, new data shows remote work is still surging. That’s because some people still don’t feel comfortable working from an office. Then, others simply prefer the convenience of remote work.

Allowing your employees to work from anywhere means they have more flexibility. They can visit their family out of state and even travel out of the country, while still working. If you don’t have a remote option, consider putting one in place this summer.

Allowing remote work can also save your business money. For instance, you could significantly reduce your office’s electric bill with employees at home. If 100% remote work isn’t an option for your employees, consider exploring hybrid options. Three days in the office and two remote days each week will offer employees some more freedom this summer.

5. Integrate Technology 

If your company doesn’t leverage technology, you may be doing your employees a real disservice. Regardless of your industry, it’s important workers have a place where they can communicate with one another. This is even more important during the summer when employees are going in and out of the office.

Consider adopting technology that helps your employees stay connected, regardless of where they are. For example, you could use a messaging platform like Slack. You could also consider using project management software like Asana or Monday. Both programs can help employees stay up to date and be held accountable for projects.

Technology can be a great tool, but you don’t want to go overboard. Make sure whatever you integrate makes sense for your company, and streamlines your business.

6. Help Them Enjoy Their Time Away

According to research, almost half of American workers don’t take vacation time. While there are several reasons for this, one is that people are afraid to take time off. Some are worried that requesting time off makes them appear replaceable and impacts their job security. Some people, on the other hand, don’t have anyone that can cover for them.

While it’s admirable that employees choose to work, not taking time off can lead to burnout. Not only can this impact your employees’ personal lives, but can lower their performance at work. Both are things you don’t want.

To keep this from happening, make sure you encourage your employees to take time off. Then, do your best to ensure they enjoy their time. Encourage employees to turn off their notifications, and not worry about work while they’re gone. Ensure then that your company will still thrive without them being there for a few days.

The point of vacation is to take time off to reset and enjoy. However, you can’t enjoy a vacation when you’re worried about work. The tips above can help your employees prepare for their summer vacation so their work is covered, and they can relax.

Image Credit: Andrea Piacquadio; Pexels; Thank you!

Make Your Home Office Better for Productivity

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Home office

Since‌ ‌the‌ ‌COVID-19 pandemic began, remote working has thrived. ‌According to Nick Bloom of Stanford’s Working From Home Research Project, about 25% to 35% of workers work from home.

Despite attempts to return to normal operations, many companies will likely switch‌ ‌to‌ ‌a‌ ‌fully‌ ‌remote‌ ‌or‌ ‌hybrid style‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌near‌ ‌future. ‌Therefore, it is likely that you will‌ ‌need‌ ‌to‌ ‌establish‌ ‌a‌ ‌more‌ ‌permanent WFH‌ ‌setup.

But, how exactly can you make your home office better for productivity? ‌Here are some tips for designing a home office for your comfort, productivity, and needs.

Think — “Small is Okay.”

No. I don’t mean scouring the fridge for a cheesy treat. ‌Instead, locate the quietest spot in‌ ‌your‌ ‌house. ‌Others find any noise bothersome, even if they need some background noise to work.

“I’m much more efficient in a quiet, distraction-free space,” says John Gerard from Our Home from Scratch. “Our home office is far enough away from the television and the play area that, with the doors closed, I can easily work in peace.”

Do not let your workspace coincide with anyone else’s to prevent this from happening. Ideally, you want to ‌select‌ ‌a‌ ‌room‌ ‌with‌ ‌a‌ ‌door. Maybe this could be a spare bedroom, basement, or attic. Some people convert closets into a home office if space is tight.

Remember to Maximize Natural Daylight.

Researchers have found‌ ‌that exposure to natural light throughout the day has positive effects on our mental and physical health. ‌So, it will be beneficial for you to open the blinds and let the light in.

“Ideally you should position your desk next to a window to enjoy the best natural light levels,” says interior designer Chantel Elshout. ‌Direct sunlight, however, can make it difficult to see your computer screen. “Adjustable window treatments, like plantation shutters, are a real savior and can be tilted as the sun moves to keep the sun out of your eyes while maintaining decent natural light levels overall.”

If you don’t have access to sunlight, a simple soft light desk lamp, such as the Mi LED Desk Lamp, will be just fine. ‌The soft glow of your work environment can contribute to a more relaxed, less stressful environment. And this will also avoid eye strain.

Turn up the tunes.

One of my favorite parts about working from home? I can play my music as loud as I want. That’s not to say I’ve tossed my headphones. It’s just that this won’t distract anyone with no one else around.

Of course, you might have to be mindful if you have a roommate or a partner. But, if not, just let the music play to your content. ‌It has been proven that listening to music during the day enhances productivity, creativity,‌ ‌and‌ ‌memory‌ ‌retention. Whatever you choose, just know that different playlists are better suited for various tasks.

For menial and tedious work, go with more upbeat music. But, when it’s time to focus on deep work, you’re better listening to the relaxing beats and soothing tones of instrumental ambient music. And, certainly know when to work in silence without your tunes.

Prioritize Comfort.

A comfortable home office makes you less likely ‌to ‌get restless‌. ‌For this reason, a strategically planned interior design is crucial.

Make sure your office chair is comfortable and ergonomically designed for your health and productivity. After all, it’s a simple way to prevent back pain over time. ‌Another option to improve posture and comfort is to use a standing desk with a rubber foot mat. I like my desk to be up sometimes and down sometimes — the variety is favorable for many things.

Although you may not think this applies to you, about 90% of adults have experienced back pain at some point in their lives, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. ‌What’s more, ‌50%‌ ‌of‌ ‌Americans have back pain annually. Desk chairs that don’t properly support your back can negatively affect your health, mood, and work performance. I really like my gaming chair in my home office for work and wish I had one for my office desk.

Upgrade Your Gear.

When you’re working remotely, technology will be your best ally. ‌But, is your existing electronic device, such as a computer, printer, or connection, prone to technical problems? ‌If so,‌ this doesn’t just slow you down, it’s ‌also ‌a nuisance.

You are likely holding on to your old equipment because it still works and upgrading seems too expensive. Think back — you’ve wasted a ton of your time troubleshooting the old stuff and likely even have lost opportunity costs. At least get the newest pieces of equipment you can afford.

Remember, any lost time will negatively affect your productivity — and your mood as well. Can you imagine the stress you’ll have if your system crashes right before a deadline?

Depending on your work, the devices you use will vary. So, make sure that you have the best tools at your disposal. Moreover, make sure that your software is up-to-date. And, if you haven’t done so yet, ‌be confident that you have a reliable and fast wireless router. You may also need area boosters to get your signal throughout your workspace.

Design Flexible Layouts.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a manager or have tons of responsibility in your current company; in today’s flexible work environment, a well-planned home office layout can help you adapt to your job better.

If you are running back and forth from office to home office — it can be helpful to design both your spaces similarly.

For an efficient home office, consider installing a Murphy bed. These are kind of expensive — but really worth it. With the Murphy bed setup, when you are not working, you can use your home office as a guest room. ‌Choosing light and minimalist furniture that you can rearrange easily is also a good idea. For example, if you want to combat a sedentary lifestyle, you can move things around to exercise or leave a balance board or weights by your desk.

An ideal home office allows for ‌movement‌ ‌and‌ ‌flexibility. ‌If you don’t like some aspect of your home office in the future, you can change it without investing in a significant renovation.

Organize Your Desk for Efficiency.

“Regardless of your preferences or inclinations, your workstation should be set up for the best time management, efficiency, and, yes, comfort,” states Robert Half. “After all, you may spend more time at your office desk than you do in your own bed.”

There is no better time than now to tidy up your files, piles of papers, and general disarray if you are constantly overwhelmed by them. ‌Here are some suggestions on arranging your environment to maximize productivity for a more manageable process.

Methodize Your Stuff.

For instance, put away non-essential items from your desktop on Monday morning. ‌Put back only what is necessary to complete the task on your desk while working. ‌Put everything still on the floor into a drawer, closet, or recycling bin at the end of the week.

Determine Your Best Workflow.

Left-to-right thinking is prevalent among many people, and they like to place items in a certain way, left to right. ‌Don’t worry about following these norms. Watch yourself a day or two to see what feels the most comfortable for you. Where is the best place for your computer?

Where will you place your phone, so it’s always where you want it? Keep a clear workspace in the middle, and completed paperwork can be on the right — unless you are left-handed. Organizing your desk depends mainly on your work style and ‌how‌ ‌you operate but try a few new things to see if they will work for you.

Allow Yourself to Have Open Desk Space.

You will likely feel more comfortable with some open space on your desk. Have an area where you can spread things out a little. If you want a space to be clear of junk — don’t put anything in that space, no matter what. To keep my clear spot clear — I set a couple of books I’m reading in the “keep clear zone.” Two books are easy to move when needed — other things are not.

Clear off Desk Clutter Everyday Before You Go Home

Despite an orderly desktop, it’s hard to keep it clean, and you may have too many distractions. ‌For example, some workers use sticky notes on their computers or monitors. This habit drives me insane — I didn’t know that until someone told me to stop that habit. Instead, use your desktop notepad or put notes on a spreadsheet. Some have laughed at my spreadsheet — but I know what I get done or need to do every single day — and there are no sticky notes to cause a distraction.

For Better Mental Health, Have Something You Love on Your Desk.

Your workspace doesn’t have to ‌be‌ ‌sterile. ‌Author Marie Kondo advocates putting things in your environment that will bring‌ ‌you joy. ‌Organize your desk, bulletin board, or wall with something that has a meaning for you. Don’t overdo it — just something simple.

Going Digital Will Save You From Excess Clutter.

We are all trying to save the Earth — and that can start with caring about trees. Okay, so maybe I have too many Amazon boxes piled up — but most of your desk clutter will be from paper stuff. Get rid of it and sync it to your calendar, to-do list, and memo pad. There are notification options in your digital productivity tools. Set up meetings, appointments, tasks, and appointment alerts from your tools. Keep thinking: no paper.

Are Your Power Cords Tripping You Up?

Legroom is essential, so don’t ignore it. ‌Check under your desk and tame the wild cord-snakes. We have a 21-hole medusa between each set of four desks at work — and it works great. (Two desks on one side and two on the other facing each other with the long power cord in the center.) ‌Only two of us have filing cabinets on the side of our desks.

At home, I have all the power cords and surge protectors in the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet, with one cord plugging into the wall.

Clean Up More Than Clutter — Wipe off Your Desk and Station

Make a habit of regularly cleaning your desktop and equipment. In one company I worked in years ago, the office manager came around on Monday morning with hand sanitizer on a cloth. We all wiped everything down — our computers, keyboard, monitor, and phones (even our cellphones). ‌As a company, this practice cut down on illness by 70%. Of course, I kept asking if I sneezed on my own keyboard could I catch a cold from myself? That question was never answered — but we had less sickness overall.

Scenting the Air is Popular

I like diffusers, but I read somewhere about taking hot water with a few drops of essential oil and setting it on your desk. I also use non-smoking candle wax. “Traditional aromatherapy suggests that certain scents‌ ‌can‌ ‌make‌ ‌us‌ ‌feel‌ ‌calm (lavender)‌ ‌or‌ ‌energized‌ ‌(citrus).”

No matter what your opinion on fragrances, they can ‌be‌ ‌‌enjoyable. For instance, adding eucalyptus or rosemary to your workspace can make you happier. On the other hand, sometimes artificial smells such as baked goods give me a headache, so watch your new scent trials.

Go Green.

Never underestimate the power of nature. ‌Additionally, having plants in your home office (and your office-office) can make you happier.

The proximity to nature, including access to window views of natural scenery and office plants, improves workers’ morale. ‌In addition, nature of almost any kind will increase productivity and reduce‌ ‌stress.

Have Your Distraction Nearby — But Not in‌ ‌the‌ ‌Way.

Despite their bad reputations, distractions‌ ‌can‌ ‌be‌ ‌healthy and beneficial. ‌Distractions, for instance, can give us a break from ‌routines,‌ ‌our‌ ‌work,‌ ‌our‌ ‌stress‌ ‌, and‌ ‌our anxiety. In addition, research shows that people can distract themselves, alleviate pain, cope with problems, and stop bad habits — all with distraction.

Distractions also help me remember that I get to choose how I spend my time. ‌‌‌It’s also nice to know I have things to do when I need a break. ‌Instead of trying to escape reality, distractions are better to relieve stress. And, they’re better than unhealthy habits like being too lenient with flex time.

Choose a distraction that you can do for only a few minutes — may‌ ‌be‌ ‌a‌ ‌walk, a computer game, guitar‌ ‌, or the piano in‌ ‌the corner. ‌Pick whatever activity you enjoy in a relatively short period and distract yourself every once in a while for your health.

Whatever you do — learn to accept and love your home office hours.

Image Credit: Tima Miroschnichenko; Pexels; Thank you!

Make Your Home Office Better for Productivity was originally published on Calendar by Deanna Ritchie

5 Tech Tools That Will Make Your Team More Productive

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Tech Tools

As a business owner, you have a lot to worry about. Are you getting enough customers? Are they satisfied with your service and are you making enough money to stay afloat? That’s not to mention making sure building space is up to code, employees are happy with their working conditions, and your personal life isn’t totally sucked away by entrepreneurship. If even one of these things is a concern for you, it’s time to equip a new tool that can help.

Increasing the productivity of your business and the team that runs it will make your company more successful without needing constant supervision. Tech tools abound in today’s business landscape and can quickly turn one of your organization’s weaknesses into a strength.

The question is: What tech tools should my business be using? There are so many to choose from, and it’s tough to know where to start. To give you some ideas, here are five of today’s best tech tools that you can try out for yourself:

1. Toggl

If you want to improve team productivity, you need to start with time management. The secret to improving productivity isn’t by working longer hours, it’s by getting more out of the hours you do put on the clock. A lot of issues concerning time management can be alleviated through Toggl.

Toggl was originally just a time tracking and reporting software, yet there are now multiple ways to use this tool. Time tracking, offered through Toggl Track, allows you to visualize your time and can show you where your inefficiencies lie through detailed reports.

The newer team planning aspect, Toggle Plan, helps organize and manage projects. The team dashboard, email tracking reminders, and time audits help ensure team members are on the same page. Additionally, the Toggl Hire feature has resources for improving your hiring process through skills tests. For a growing business, this can help screen new applicants more efficiently.

2. Appointment

A large portion of your time as a business leader will be spent in various meetings. Additionally, many businesses rely on appointment bookings to meet with customers to sell products and services. Organizing these meetings and events on your own can be stressful, but with Appointment as your tech tool, it’s a breeze.

One of Appointment’s most valuable features is its ability to handle multiple locations, departments, and categories at once. If you’re operating a large business or a region of franchises, Appointment will help you keep every time commitment in its proper place.

For appointment-based businesses, this program will automate most of the booking process. Employees will spend less time on the phones or at the check-in desk and can devote their time to other meaningful projects.

3. Slack

Team communication is essential. How your team communicates on a daily basis will directly influence their productivity and overall success. Modern teams have to collaborate over long distances and sometimes even time zone changes. A tech tool such as Slack makes collaboration and communication just as easy as if you were sharing an office space.

Slack is an application that can be used on your desktop or your mobile device to quickly send messages and files to anyone on your team. Separate channels can be created to keep departments and subject matter separated for optimal communication. You can even set permissions for each channel so that only the necessary individuals have access to certain chat rooms.

The cherry on top is all the integrations that you can add to Slack in addition to its effective communication platform. You can hook up other applications such as Google Drive, Zoom, and Salesforce for an even more streamlined teamwork process.

4. Hubspot

The question isn’t what can Hubspot do for you, it’s what can’t Hubspot do for you? Hubspot has a variety of tech tool solutions called ‘hubs’ that can be used individually or combined together to increase team productivity. Available hubs cover the following business processes:

  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Customer Service
  • Content Management
  • System Operations

If you want to give each hub a try you can use a two-week demo to see how each one affects your team’s metrics. Some hubs even have limited tools available for free if you would like to run a small sample over a longer period of time.

5. Buffer

Any great business in 2022 is managing a social media presence alongside their regular operations. Even with a dedicated social media team, this can be quite the undertaking. Social media content needs to be curated, edited, and posted alongside managing comments and direct messages.

With a tool such as Buffer, much of your social media projects can be automated. For starters, you can schedule your social media posts across multiple platforms to go live at a designated time. You won’t have to log on at the exact moment you want your content to be posted.

Additionally, you get access to advanced metrics and reporting to help you improve your social media strategy. With Buffer’s reports, you can see exactly what’s working and how you should change your approach.

To truly know if these tech tools are improving productivity you need to pay close attention. How have your metrics changed since using a new tool? Do team members seem more energized with new tools? If you’re seeing positive results, then consider making those tools a permanent resource for your team.

Freelancers Today Have More Options Than Ever Before

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What’s the first thing that pops to mind when you hear “freelancing”?

Perhaps you think of someone working from the comfort of home with their laptop and smartphone close by. And, how could you not? This is a reality for 21st-century freelancers, thanks to digitalization. And that’s a good thing.

The thing is, freelancing has been around for centuries.

References to the word “freelance” date back to the early 19th century. Thomas N. Brown first used the term in The Life and Times of Hugh Miller (1809). In his book, Ivanhoe, written in 1819, Sir Walter Scott referred to it in 1820. As it appears in the book;

“I offered Richard the service of my Free Lances, and he refused them—I will lead them to Hull, seize on shipping, and embark for Flanders; thanks to the bustling times, a man of action will always find employment.”

However, as we know it, freelancing really picked up steam in the 21st. In 2017 Upwork reported that freelance workforce growth is accelerating and has outpaced overall U.S. workforce growth by 3x since 2014. It was also anticipated that freelancing was on pace to account for a majority of the U.S. workforce by 2027.

And then you know what happened in 2020. As a result of the pandemic, the freelance revolution has now truly arrived. It’s currently being forecast that by 2028, there will be over 90 million freelancers in the U.S. alone, making up over half of the entire workforce.

Why Freelancers Have More Options Than Ever Before

So, why has freelancing become so popular that it’s considered the future of work? Well, here’s why.

Technological advancements.

As technology advances, freelancing will become more commonplace. Because of this, a wide variety of workers, skills, and jobs are available. Typically, technical skills are needed first, followed by creative skills.

It is almost impossible for today’s businesses to fulfill all their technological needs with just a few employees or with one. To solve specific problems, they must rely on temporary workers. Additionally, freelancers evolve along with technological advances.

Aside from what the World Economic Forum refers to as an “acceleration in the adoption of new technologies,” automation has highlighted a rapidly growing skills gap in the fields of artificial intelligence, encryption, big data, the Internet of Things, and non-human robotics.

Roles that require these specialized skills are hard to fill for many businesses. Besides detracting from productivity, that also adds financial stress. Do freelancing and the future of the workforce differ in any significant way?

As companies struggle to find qualified staff, they increasingly rely on contractors to complete tasks that require specialized skills. Data analysts, big data experts, AI and machine learning specialists, software engineers, and IT security analysts will be in high demand for the foreseeable future. The availability of contract work creates a lot of opportunities for freelancers with these skills to pick up contract work to fill in gaps and choose which companies to work with and how they spend their time.

Freelancing is expanding into other industries.

At the same time, freelancing is no longer just for creative industries, according to Hayden Brown, the president and CEO of freelancing platform Upwork.

“It’s also across every business type,” Brown told Fast Company. “We serve 30% of the Fortune 100. They’re using freelance talent in more new ways and mom-and-pop shops. Small companies realize that this is a workforce they can be tapping into. So it’s cutting across all sectors of the economy, [and] all types of skills,” says Brown.

“Freelancers are in high demand in almost every skill area that can be done in front of a computer.”

People are choosing to freelance.

Getting a healthier work-life balance is the top reason people choose to freelance, according to a FlexJobs survey. Seventy percent of respondents said their desire to be a freelancer is related to seeking a better “rhythm” between their career and personal goals.

But, wait. There’s more.

  • Additionally, 62% of survey respondents said that the flexibility of work schedules was a significant factor in their decision to freelance.
  • It was also found that 56% of respondents said that having the freedom to work on their own terms is a huge reason to freelance.
  • The flexibility to work anywhere and move without fear of losing their job was highly regarded by 55% of respondents.
  • 46% of people stated they wanted to select their own projects.
  • 45% of respondents said family responsibilities were the top reason they freelanced.
  • 38% of respondents said they wanted to stop commuting to work, both in terms of time and money.
  • Among respondents, 36% listed increased productivity as their main reason for freelancing.
  • The FlexJobs survey found that 35% of people are willing to work freelance to save time and be more efficient.
  • 30% cited avoiding office politics and distractions as the main reason to freelance.

Creativity boost and deeper talent pool.

Freelancers have many opportunities to develop their creative skills. Accessing diverse cultures and approaches for all fields is facilitated by exposure to international markets and various industries. Freelancers can therefore adapt their activities and projects to different markets, thereby expanding their business.

Likewise, employers can tap into a deeper and more innovative and diverse talent pool. Best of all? They can do this regardless of location.

Cost reduction.

Unlike having a full-time or in-house team, employers can save money by hiring freelancers on an as-need basis. For example, they can outsource a web designer or IT specialist when building their website or troubleshooting. As a result, they can dedicate this money to other aspects of the business.

On the other hand, the freelancing lifestyle allows freelancers to save money by not having to commute to work or by not buying expensive clothes, meals, and so on. What’s more, most freelancers only require internet access and a computer.

Additionally, starting out as a freelancer is very affordable. For the first few months, you may only have to sign in to freelance websites and platforms and pay for your internet service. As for marketing, you can tap into social networks for free.

Hybrid and remote work is here to stay.

Finally, hybrid and remote aren’t going anywhere even as the world returns to somewhat normalcy. In fact, by shifting their talent model to include both full-time and freelance employees, 90% of companies surveyed predict that they will gain a competitive advantage in the future.

Moreover, unlike in the past, workers have more freedom these days to live wherever they want while still having access to various job opportunities. Further, a number of non-technical workers such as marketing consultants, insurance brokers, and financial workers are demanding permanent work-from-home opportunities.

Additionally, an estimated 70% of the workforce will work remotely at least five days per month by 2025. With more remote work opportunities, more people will be turning to freelance.

How to Land Your Next Freelance Gig

Make no mistake about it — freelancing is growing. And, it’s also never been easier to land freelance work.

While you could go the tried and true route with referrals from friends, family, and colleagues, it may also be beneficial to join trade or industry associations where you will be able to meet others who share your interests.

More conveniently, though, you can utilize social media. First, of course, there’s LinkedIn. By joining groups, building connections, and publishing content on their platform, you could reach potential contacts. You can also search for freelancing jobs on Facebook and Twitter.

And, you definitely need to tap into the hundreds of freelance job websites out there. There’s Upwork, FlexJobs, Freelancer, Indeed, and Fiverr for general freelance work.

But, there are also niche marketplaces.

  • Contena and Freelance Writing Gigs for writers.
  • For designers, there are 99 Designs and Behance.
  • Developers should check out Codeable.
  • The Creative Loft is perfect for photographers.
  • What about marketers? Remotive and People Per Hour are worth exploring.
  • If you’re in sales, check out ZipRecruiter or CommissionCrowd.
  • Belay is a sold choice for virtual assistants.
  • Customer support jobs can be found over at We Work Remotely

One final piece of advice. Regardless of your field, you need to have your own website. Nowadays, you can easily do this yourself for only a couple of bucks. But, it’s worth the investment as this gives you a chance to highlight your freelancing skills.

Image Credit: Andrea Piacquadio; Pexels; Thank you!

Freelancers Today Have More Options Than Ever Before was originally published on Calendar by Deanna Ritchie

Five New Workflow Improvements to Add to Your Calendar

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Workflow Improvements

A typical eight-hour workday includes about three hours of work spent on personal or unnecessary tasks. Or, to put that another way, every week, 15 hours are wasted on non-productive tasks.

Managing workflow improvements and efficiency procedures can help you eliminate these timewasters. However, just be aware that it’s impossible to avoid every delay completely. But, hey. We’ll take what we can.

But, what are some ways you can implement these changes? Below are five workflow improvements to add to your calendar to increase productivity.

How Do Wasted Hours Affect Productivity?

When we spend more time on admin tasks, we lose valuable productivity time. Because of this wasted time, meaningful, project-related work is reduced. What’s more, administration tasks divert attention from more important work. Even worse, when we’re occupied with these tasks, this causes us to focus and drains our energy.

As if that weren’t bad enough, these repetitive and mundane activities aren’t t intellectually stimulating. That might not sound like a biggie. But, that can make you fill unfilled and unsatisfied. Which, of course, will hinder your productivity.

And, if you think that’s tough on you, just imagine what it does to your team if you’re a leader. Just like you, they want to get more done in less time. But, they also want to dedicate their time and energy to be productive, not just busy.

Basically, all of these wasted hours significantly impact a company’s productivity. So, from the top-down, everyone will be more productive if they invest more time in project-related work. And when everyone’s engaged, this leads to greater satisfaction and productivity.

Causes of Reduced Workflow Efficiency

Because workflows have many moving parts, a simple change in one part can affect the whole structure and stymie your organizational progress.

Listed below are some causes of slow workflow, both within teams and organizations as a whole.

Tasks that are irrelevant or unproductive.

If your operations change due to internal factors or external circumstances, you might find that some parts of your workflow are no longer necessary.

When these tasks are not removed, they become bottlenecks in your workflow, consuming resources that could have been spent on more productive procedures, and stagnating work in the long run.

Lack of coordination of information.

Every functional workflow relies on information since it facilitates insight into where your work is at, what factors apply, and what steps you need to take to keep delivering results now, and in the future.

Because information flow isn’t managed intelligently in workflows, you and your team members will spend more time locating the relevant information instead of actually getting work done.

Team management is disorganized.

If your team members do not know which part of the workflow they should be working on and have no idea who to consult in case of an issue, a large pool of personnel will go unused.

Five New Workflow Improvements to Add to Your Calendar

In the workplace, unclear and unnecessary tasks are top time-wasters, as are long meetings and unclear assignments. However, these problems can be reduced by putting the proper tools in place.

At the same time, streamlining your workflow procedures doesn’t happen overnight. But it will save you money and time in the long run if you put in the effort today.

But, where do you start when it comes to workflow improvement? Well, the most glaring would be reviewing and analyzing your current workflow. Doing so will help you spot any bottlenecks so that you fix them.

Another obvious suggestion? Leaning on automation tools for recurring and tedious tasks. And, if working with others, you definitely need collaboration tools.

Outside of these noticeable workflow improvements, here are five new ones to focus on.

1. Align Your Most Important Work With Your Chronotype

.“Your chronotype is just a fancy way of saying ‘your body clock,” explains Amantha Imber, founder of behavioral science consultancy Inventium and the host of How I Work. We all follow this natural cycle of sleep and wakefulness. “Everyone has a unique chronotype, and it influences the peaks and troughs of energy we feel throughout our days.”

“Around 10% of people are stereotypical larks, who feel most energetic in the mornings,” explains Imber. “At the other end of the spectrum are the 20% of the population who are owls, or people who do their best work at night.” As a result, we tend to spring into action in the morning, have a power lull after lunch, and end the day with a bang.

You can achieve more by paying attention to your chronotype and planning your priorities around your energy peaks, suggests Dan Pink, author of “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.”

“On days I plan to write, I do it in the mornings, when I’m most alert,” he told Imber. “I set myself a word count, and I won’t do anything until I hit it.” Furthermore, he won’t use his phone in the office or check his email. “Once I’ve hit my goal, I’m free to do other things.” Instead, pink uses his morning energy to focus on his work and avoid distractions.

He tends to stay focused on doable tasks during his afternoon energy slump. For example, he answers emails or files documents.

When you’re most productive, lock in your priorities first in your calendar. Then, after tackling your preferences, you’ll have the momentum and energy to breeze through your remaining responsibilities.

2. Stop Multitasking

Multitasking is never an efficient way of spending your time, even if it might seem so in the moment,” explains Deanna Ritchie in another Calendar article.

“When we multitask, we rapidly switch between multiple tasks, which expends brainpower, takes energy, and reduces our productivity,” Deanna explains.

Most people who boast that they can multitask effectively don’t realize that they are actually less efficient at solving many tasks at once than they are at completing one task at a time.

You should ask yourself how efficient you want to be whenever you find yourself wanting to multitask. You should be aware of the time and effort you need to devote to specific tasks. These tasks may require you to take time away from other tasks so you can devote your undivided attention to these tasks.

“When you stop multitasking and begin focusing entirely on a single task at one time, you’ll see your productivity increase,” she adds.

3. Get Organized

In my opinion, this can be a broad workflow as it encompasses both the big and the small.

For example, you could block out 10-minutes at the end of the workday to clean organize your workspace. You could also go through your inbox, update your to-do list, or revise your calendar for the week.

You will see a long-term improvement in your workflow if you eliminate this small amount of clutter.

On the bigger side of organization, you need to establish an effective organizational system. It’s a simple way for you and your team to save time when looking for documents and resources. Moreover, you can keep your team on task by implementing organizational strategies and data management systems.

I would also suggest assigning clear deadlines to both you and your team. Again, this will keep everyone on the same page and prevent hiccups. Ideally, you would use a team calendar so that everyone can view upcoming tasks and projects.

4. Schedule a ShipIt Day

The Atlassian Company developed the concept of letting employees work on any project for 24 hours. Employees become motivated when they have the chance to do something they are passionate about when creativity is encouraged in this way. After completing their task for the day, employees return to work feeling accomplished and motivated.

Even if you aren’t leading a team, you can still apply this concept. For instance, you could schedule a ShipIt on Fridays. Why? Because most of us are spent by the end of the week. And, for some, having a 4-day work week can increase your efficiency and workflow.

5. Keep Calm and Workflow On

It is only possible for your workflows to remain cutting edge if you prioritize analyzing them regularly and finding out what works, what doesn’t, and what to improve.

To achieve workflow efficiency, you must;

  • Plan your workflow for manual review,
  • Monitor your issue tracking workflows constantly,
  • As needed, refine your workflows
  • Make sure your workflow can continue to meet your targets by testing and improving.

To get more done with less, it’s easier to eliminate unnecessary steps and focus on what it takes to improve your workflow.

Where does your calendar come into play here? To ensure that you don’t forget to continually review and improve your workflow, add this to your calendar ASAP. How often? That’s up to you. But, for newer workflow improvements, I wouldn’t go more than a month.

However, you can schedule this as a quarterly or annual task in most cases.

Image Credit: Fauxels; Pexels; Thank you!

Five New Workflow Improvements to Add to Your Calendar was originally published on Calendar by John Rampton.

How You Can Run Your Business More Efficiently in 2022

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Run Business More Efficiently 2022

2022 is the year for growth, with economic conditions improving, consumers back in the buying game, and the pandemic waning. Growth may happen to organizations that plan to run their business more efficiently.

Looking ahead over the next 12 to 18 months, companies may be hoping to see substantial growth. It may be possible, especially if organizations do the hard work now to prepare for opportunities to bound ahead of the competition.

In 2021, a great deal of transformation happened for many organizations. Economic and political climates changed, but so did the priorities of consumers, many of whom were faced with limited product access due to supply chain shortages.

One way to improve growth opportunities is to improve efficiency in operations. It’s not just about seeking sales increase but also trimming back and improving the overall business model to boost bottom lines.

How to Run Your Business More Efficiently With 6 Steps

There’s plenty to look forward to in 2022. Companies need to consider these strategies and tips to take advantage of it.

1. Evaluate employee wages and benefits

As the New York Times notes, the labor shortage impacting many businesses today is pushing up pay for many Americans. Wages at numerous companies – like Amazon, Chipotle, and Bank of America – have increased significantly. While the Federal Reserve is working to monitor wage growth (if it’s too fast, inflation may rise too quickly), for companies, it’s critical to consider the competition.

To improve operational efficiency, companies need to have productive employees. Those are often employees that feel valued and respected by the organization they are a part of. Contrary to many beliefs, workers are willing to work, but they want to be treated fairly and compensated equally.

Does that mean increasing pay? Not necessarily all of the time. However, companies should look at how well their pay scale matches that of their competitors. That’s going to bring in the best talent.

2. Outsource key operations

You don’t have to handle all your business operations in-house to retain control of your company and turn a profit. Plenty of operations are ideal for outsourcing to an individual or provider. In fact, you may already outsource occasionally, such as hiring independent marketing consultants or freelance graphic designers from time to time. However, you can’t overlook the value that you can get by making outsourcing a bigger part of your operational workflow.

Take your fulfillment process, for instance. If you sell products over the Internet to consumers, you need to handle all the associated warehousing, shipping, and receiving elements. These centers can become points of friction and expense. A potential outsourced solution is to partner with a full-service, third-party logistics (3PL) e-commerce solutions provider.

For best results, look for 3PL partners that utilize technology that will integrate with your current tech stack. As Tradefull, a 3PL complete e-commerce solution provider explains, having access to a single dashboard to manage everything from product descriptions to returns gives you the transparency you need to stay in the know.

There’s little doubt that outsourcing operations can provide a huge improvement to your company over time. The transition doesn’t have to be difficult to make, either. Take a look at your current operations. Evaluate which ones are causing you the most obstacles or chewing up profits. Then, consider ways to overcome operational inefficiencies with help from an outside source.

3. Recognize what’s holding employee productivity back

Employee productivity is hurting in many organizations. That directly translates into lower profits and limited efficiency. The question is, why?

One core reason is uncertainty. Political and economic conditions continue to be less clear than in years gone by. Consumers are facing inflation and are worried about their futures. At the same time, they are working to improve themselves by becoming more diversity-focused and supportive of those of different lifestyles. Employees are also battling different needs and desires, with many continuing to face the toll of the pandemic and the losses it brings.

All of that uncertainty doesn’t remain at home. It comes to working with employees. There are solutions that may help alleviate this.

  • Encourage employees to be productive even when they struggle to do so. Do so in a positive and motivating way. Offer tools to help them, such as improved scheduling.
  • Provide mental health and emotional support services to employees to encourage them to seek the support they need. Ensure it remains anonymous.
  • Open the conversation to find out what their needs are. Are they worried about childcare? Do they struggle with focus because of unmet needs? Talk about what’s holding them back.
  • Provide opportunities for enrichment, growth, and promotion. Often, employee productivity improves when they see the good that may come from it.
  • Offer benefits that employees need and want. They may appreciate shorter workdays, flexible schedules, improved health plans, or other services. Open the door to communication to find out what those needs may be.

Improving employee productivity may help you run your business more efficiently, especially in your company’s day-to-day operations. It may also help improve employee retention rates, which means less time and money spent on training.

4. Be ready to tap into supplier product rollouts

The pandemic continues to impact supply chains for many organizations. The Wall Street Journal reports that supply chain shortages and their increasing costs are driven by strong consumer demand for goods. For many businesses, that increasing cost is hurting growth and efficiency opportunities.

Companies must be aware of scarcities within their supply chain. More importantly, while not only noting when these are present, they also need to work closely to find alternatives. Some businesses are working to offer new solutions and products to help accommodate those unavailable products.

Turning to suppliers to ask for accommodations for supply insufficiencies is necessary. Some suppliers are working to source products from other locations or offer alternatives. This could help to increase the ability to produce goods. Working closely with suppliers to manage shortages is critical to helping you run your business operations more efficiently. Without a plan to deal with a lack of materials, companies grind to a halt, pushing their customers to find their own alternatives. Be proactive in seeking other supply options.

5. Work to automate operations as much as possible

With good time management, companies can do more and achieve bigger results. One way to boost time management is to improve automation. Often, organizations see automation as a big-ticket investment they have to make in their operation. Initially, it seems cost-prohibitive, but there are real opportunities to automate small tasks to see big results.

Consider the benefits of automation in various sectors of the company. Automate operations where possible. Automating that task could mean efficiency improvement if a machine can do it and a person does not need to oversee the process. That may include marketing, sales processes, customer service, and other areas.

Moreover, you could automate repetitive tasks such as the hiring process or application process. Work to eliminate tedious tasks that take too much time and yield very little insights.

6. Improve your business’s online footprint

It’s also beneficial to companies to get more of their business online. With this in mind, small businesses are specifically at risk for being left behind when it comes to efficiencies because they don’t provide consumers with access to online and mobile shopping.

Widen the online footprint of the company to move more operations online. That includes selling directly to customers on a website and not just relying on retailers to manage product sales. It may also mean working to bring more marketing efforts online where they are more likely to pay off through social media and brand building.

Improving an online presence may help in numerous ways. First, it helps to streamline both marketing and sales strategies. At the same time, it provides a much higher ROI because of the less demand on third-party retailers.

Additionally, building an online presence builds the company’s credibility and brand recognition, meaning less money needs to go towards educating the public about the company and its products. In turn, this enables you to run your business more efficiently.

Improving efficiency means taking a hard look at business models

Most importantly, organizations ready to embrace all that 2022 has to offer need to focus heavily on running their business more efficiently. It may be a good time for a business to put some money and time into increasing sales or launching new products. It may be time to expand to new countries in an ever-expanding global marketplace.

Yet, at the heart of every business’s growth strategies is finding ways to be more efficient. Consider the value of outsourcing key tasks to professionals who can do it for less so you can focus on strategies that take your company to the next level this year.

How You Can Run Your Business More Efficiently in 2022 was originally published on Calendar by Abby Miller.

Image Credit: Christina Morillo; Pexels; Thank you!

How to Run an Efficient Team With Fewer People

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How to Run an Efficient Team With Fewer People

A quick glance at the Fortune 500 will show you some well-oiled corporate machines that dominate their respective industries. Small companies and startups will try to emulate those same business models with varying degrees of success. Is it possible for a small organization to run as efficiently as a business behemoth?

The answer is yes, but you might have to customize your approach to fit your specific team. Running a small-scale team is a much more intimate and detail-oriented matter, but when done correctly, it can be just as efficient as any company you compare yourself to.

This article will help you and your team increase your efficiency and help your small business find great success even with fewer people on deck.

Lean on Automation

When operating with a small team, look for ways to automate basic tasks that take up a lot of time when performed manually. This frees up your team members and allows them to focus their attention elsewhere, getting much more done in a regular day. 

Take online appointment software, for example. With this solution in place, customers can book their own appointments, check future availability, and even make payments without the help of a customer representative. You’ll no longer need to have a team member on the phones all day helping customers do those things.

You can automate a whole bunch of tasks — outreach emails, invoice reminders, social media posts — if you have the right tools for it. Look for solutions that will take control of basic tasks so that your team can focus on more complex assignments. 

Focus on Communication

You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it once again. Communication is absolutely vital for teams of all shapes and sizes. Even one miscommunication can be quite disruptive.

Improving team communication doesn’t have to be complicated. Try using project management software or an instant messaging platform to keep everyone on the same page. Hold consistent meetings and touch base with your employees on a regular basis. Ultimately, successful communication comes down to the effort you put into it, so don’t let a day go by where you’re not communicating with your team in some way. 

Another important aspect of communication is gathering feedback. Ask your team about what’s working and what’s not working, then use that information to change your workflows. Few things will improve your team’s efficiency more than listening to their process improvement ideas and putting them into practice. 

Manage Workloads

Some miscommunications are worse than others. One side effect of bad communication is poor workload management. With a small team, especially in a startup, there’s a chance that some members are taking on far more tasks than their peers, which creates a distinct disparity between co-workers. If the imbalance persists, it can begin to breed resentment.

You might appreciate that your hardest-working employee is taking on as many assignments as possible, but the truth is that they’re likely experiencing some diminishing returns on their productivity. If they’re biting off more than they can chew, it won’t be long before errors occur or something has to be pushed aside.

By managing the workload over your entire team, projects can be distributed more evenly. This will likely result in tasks being completed much faster than if a single person was trying to do everything on their own. 

Build a Positive Culture

Company culture might seem superficial, but employees are valuing culture more now than ever. A positive company culture will draw in better employee prospects, which will naturally increase your efficiency by introducing more good workers into the mix.

In addition, your culture will directly affect team morale on a daily basis. If your team enjoys coming to work every day and mingling with their co-workers, they’ll work harder and more efficiently together. A poor culture will cause team members to drag their feet and potentially even look for a different employer.

How do you build a positive culture? There are a number of different approaches, and the ones you choose will depend on your team’s values. Casual wear, a revamped break room, team lunches, and after-work activities are all possibilities to consider. 

Promote Autonomy

As a leader, it’s important to be hands-on with your team. However, you need to avoid becoming a micromanager. Going too far in the “helping” direction can actually hurt productivity and efficiency. 

While remaining involved, promote autonomy throughout your team. Make yourself available for questions and guidance, but don’t stick your nose in when you’re not needed. This might be difficult to achieve if you’re an entrepreneur working on your startup, but it’ll pay off in the long run.

If you want to measure how these tips are working for your team, start tracking some key metrics (hours worked per process, cost of goods/services sold, etc.) that you can compare over time. As you see those numbers improve, you’ll know you’re turning your small team into an efficiency powerhouse. 

5 Industries Benefiting from Improved Productivity and Efficiency

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5 Industries Benefiting from Improved Productivity and Efficiency

Over the past few centuries, society has undergone several Industrial Revolutions where improved productivity was the main focus. Each one introduced different kinds of innovations like mechanized fabric making, product standardization, and digital communications. Certainly, they were different in terms of what they brought to the societal table. Yet, they all had one thing in common: They enabled exciting methods of workforce efficiency on unparalleled scales.

Today, we’re nestled somewhere around the Fourth or Fifth Industrial Revolution. As a result, efficiency and its cousin, productivity, have arisen as hallmarks of successful companies. Indeed, top organizations like Apple and Microsoft do things better, faster, and cheaper than competitors.

As a result, these companies are frequently used as examples in business school curricula. When have you heard of “the greats” without hearing of Apple and Microsoft? Moreover, these businesses’ efficiencies continue to keep them in leading positions worldwide and force other organizations to keep up — or get left behind.

For instance, Amazon has mastered what is coined McDonaldization. That is, Amazon’s workplace engine runs like that of a fast-food chain. How so? People get exactly what they want when they want it at an affordable price.

No matter where an individual is under Amazon’s reach, they can expect the same level of service. The system is efficiency-in-action — and it turns consumers into loyalists. The Amazon example provides other businesses with the inspiration and impetus to boost their own company productivity ratings.

Leaning into efficiency — even when it’s a tough sell

Of course, becoming efficient isn’t simple and doesn’t come without growing pains. If it did, every startup or enterprise would run like clockwork without minimal amounts of time, human resources, or financial waste.

Efficiency takes tremendous planning, work, and dedication, right down to the individual level, which is why some sectors historically have lagged behind. Not anymore, though. Plenty of industries are finally embracing the realization that efficiency will bring myriad opportunities.

At the same time, business leaders have realized that an efficient culture doesn’t have to be robotic. Productivity can be fun and rewarding. Workers don’t necessarily disengage just because their employer values productivity. Instead, they can start to see themselves as part of the solution. Plus, if they can help cut out waste, they may see personal gains like a shorter workweek.

Improved productivity in industries not known for productivity

So which industries are becoming known for adopting more efficient processes? The following five are finding and testing exciting ways to boost productivity.

Industry #1. Media and entertainment

Video game development may be a thriving field. Nonetheless, companies have had trouble finding workers to fill roles. Part of the problem is that the technologies needed to produce games evolve rapidly. Consequently, job candidates who graduated a few years ago may not have impressive resumes or appropriate credentials.

Credentials within each market have to be updated, and some workers have not taken that opportunity — leading to problems with efficiency within video game developing companies. Why? The companies are struggling to put workers into positions.

Fortunately, the industry has found a workaround that’s both efficient and effective. As Gearbox Entertainment president Randy Pitchford has explained while on the speaking circuit, “hiring for aptitude could transform this industry.” Pitchford has seen how recruiting people with the right cultural fit, determination, and spatial skills can have more bottom-line effects than hiring someone for background alone.

Understanding gaming industry needs and the unique way of sourcing tomorrow’s gaming performers has allowed Gearbox and other entities to get projects to market (and consumers hungry for entertainment) faster than ever before.

Industry #2. Education

Although education has experienced improved productivity with the advent of technologies like the computer and the Internet, it’s still antiquated. Still, it’s undergone a bit of metamorphosis during Covid due to the rise in online learning. And that’s opened the door for education advocates, administrators, educators, and parents to discuss revamping the educational process.

Take grading systems, for instance. Instructure, the maker behind Canvas, conducted a research study during the pandemic. The study showed that about half of educational setting stakeholders felt that students were falling behind. At the same time, plenty of respondents felt the way to help kids and teens recovery shouldn’t include high-stakes testing.

Instead, 76% of teachers felt that formative assessments were better to determine if students were progressing. So if formative assessments become mainstream, they may help teachers more efficiently bring all students to a standard level.

Industry #3. Healthcare

Medicine, in general, hasn’t always been the pinnacle of productivity. How many stories have we all heard about long waits to get from the lobby to the exam room? Or the inability to schedule an appointment within three months, especially with a specialist?

These hiccups have made healthcare a place fraught with frustrations for all parties. In other words, it’s the perfect zone for a focus on improved productivity.

Healthcare has enjoyed an efficiency renaissance recently thanks to integrated healthcare portals. Many of the larger hospitals and healthcare systems are creating centralized places for records, communication, billing, insurance, and more.

By streamlining all documentation and giving patients more immediate access, providers are improving their service. They’re also putting power in the hands of patients who can schedule emotional wellness telemedicine visits and pay their bills online.

Industry #4. Retail

Consumers fell out of favor with brick-and-mortar shopping during Covid. Instead, they tended to do most of their purchasing online through sites and apps. Though they’ve returned to their favorite retailers now that they can, they’ve altered their buying behaviors.

More than ever, they value efficient interchanges — and don’t necessarily want to spend hours browsing or waiting in lines. Instead, they want the speed that can only come from highly efficient workflows.

To satisfy the public’s needs, retailers have made several efficiency changes. For one, lots have added self-service kiosk checkouts. Others have bumped up their digital spaces, adding buy-now, pick-up-in-store choices.

More retail companies are promising curbside delivery with prepayment. Not surprisingly, shoppers are taking advantage of these current opportunities to get what they want faster.

Industry #5. Real Estate

Who would have thought that real estate would take off during and after the pandemic? It happened, though. Even during the strictest lockdown periods, people found ways to connect with realtors and virtually visit properties. As soon as they could, they snatched up residential and commercial deals–sending Zestimates soaring sky-high.

Until the middle of 2021, the housing market kept going up and up. The higher prices delighted everyone, from agents to sellers to investors. But, at the same time, it highlighted the need for improved productivity with so many people clamoring to enter into the real estate market.

Even though buyers and sellers can once again meet in person, they’re not stuck doing real estate the same way. Realtors and realty companies have begun to use the web more effectively. They’re exploring ways to ramp up efficiency from streamlining documentation through online e-signature portals to showcasing even luxury properties online.

Some are even testing the waters with augmented and virtual reality. The more they can get a potential buyer to connect with available properties, the faster they can close a sale.

Some experts say that we’ve entered into the Fifth Industrial Revolution. Others say we’re only on its cusp. A few are looking forward to predicting the Sixth Industrial Revolution, which could be a combination of AI and biotech.

Regardless of which Industrial Revolution is upon us, all organizations and industries can benefit from an upsurge of innovation, adaptability, and efficiency.

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