I think it’s safe to say that we could all benefit from an extra hour or three in our working day. While technology has brought us a long way from the days when we had to wait ages for internal messages to arrive in bright orange envelopes, it has brought with it unending streams of information and fast-paced communications, which, combined with ever growing to-do lists, means that there never seem to be enough hours in the day.
Now I’d love to share a ‘how-to’ about building a time machine that solved the problem once and for all, but I’m sorry to say, I can’t. So, instead, I’ve done the next best thing and gathered time-saving tips from some of the Kent Vision LIVE team, and the partners that help us bring you the event. So, hopefully, while we can’t give you that extra hour, we can make it feel like we have.
I’ll start with an app I make a lot of use of—Pocket.
I love Pocket and use it to manage the different articles and web pages I come across during my working week. If I stop to read them as I discover them, I can get seriously distracted. Pocket lets me save a blog or news item from a web page with one click, and it can also strip out the ads and other unnecessary clutter. I sync my Pocket account with my tablet and phone, and then I can catch up on all my saved articles when I have some dead time—on the train perhaps.
The app also lets you add tags to the items you save, so you can keep them organised and refer to them later on.
Alison Parmar, FSB Development Manager for Kent, finds WhatsApp to be an effective way of staying in touch with her colleagues:
Between the 8 FSB development managers across the South East, we use WhatsApp to send quick fire questions and keep in touch. It’s an easy, fast and friendly way to link to a remote group of staff who are rarely in one place at the same time!
Rich Tribe, Joint MD at Kent Vision LIVE organisers, Revolution Events, has found a great solution to the painful challenge of scheduling a convenient meeting time for a group of busy professionals:
I use an online polling tool called Doodle to help schedule meetings for two non-profit projects that I’m involved with.
Both organisations are resourced entirely by volunteers, so nearly everyone also has a full-time ‘day job’ and the time they contribute to the non-profit projects needs to be managed as efficiently as possible.
The Doodle tool makes it very quick and easy to check the availability of committee members on multiple dates, without having to keep track of an endless string of wide distribution emails. It is accessible via the web and an elegant mobile app. The app can also be used to notify everyone of the chosen date, as soon as there is some consensus.
The team at Zoodikers Consulting manage a large number of client projects. They make this as efficient as they can using an app called Slack, as the company’s MD, Katie King, explained:
At the beginning of 2017, we started using Slack as a project management tool. Instead of sending countless emails back and forth, which can clutter up your inbox, the team can chat through key actions, strategise and even brainstorm using Slack’s messaging function. We can also share documents at the touch of a button, making feedback and discussion easy. Operating separate ‘streams’, each dedicated to a particular project, has not only simplified processes but has also made communication and document management much easier, especially when members of the team are working outside of the office in between meetings.
The app uses notifications, but, they aren’t as intrusive or distracting as one might assume. Instead of constantly refreshing email inboxes, Slack’s desktop push notifications enable the whole team to continue working while keeping an eye on any developments within their streams; so everyone is poised to engage in discussion when needed.
We will, of course, still continue to use email alongside Slack but for communication within the team, we find it to be the perfect productivity app!
Of course, being productive is not all about using apps. Deborah Ward-Johnstone, Group Event Director at Revolution Events, shared a simple, but useful tip for those of us that are easily distracted:
I turn off the email envelope notification for incoming mail as I find they distract me from the task at hand. Doing this means that I can focus on each task until completed, without the notifications taking my train of thought away, and it lets me tick the “done” box a lot sooner than if I was constantly responding to emails.
Emma Ransley, the Account Manager at the KM Media Group’s Kent Business paper, has to prioritise her time sharing and following up communications with her client base. Hubspot’s sales tool makes that task a lot easier as Emma outlined:
Hubspot is a powerful tool for sales and marketing support. There are paid options, but the free plans still offer useful features. You can use the tool to schedule emails, set up template emails and create document templates too. But I find the email tracking facility to be the most useful feature if you have important e-mails to send and need to know if they’ve been read. The tool not only lets you know when the recipient has opened an email but can also show when they have clicked on links or opened attachments. Plus, once an email has been read, Hubspot lets you see every time the recipient subsequently opens it.
It helps me to prioritise my email follow up to those contacts I know have opened and read what I’ve sent, but also to plan an alternative approach to those that haven’t. Of course, the tool is also great if you have clients who deny all knowledge of having received your e-mails!
Our final tip comes from Nick Litton, also Joint MD at Revolution Events, and it reminds us not to forget the fundamentals. Whether you chose to use an app like Slack as the Zoodikers team do, or you stick to more traditional tools like email, how you use them is as important as what they do:
Don’t underestimate the importance of the humble cc box. Yes, it’s abused with too many “just going out to lunch” emails that cc the whole company. But where it wins is in easy, no nonsense communication with your colleagues.
To save yourself time, duplicating your efforts, and that of your co-workers who may find themselves hunting for information, keep your colleagues in the loop—let them know what is going on with clients and projects. It’s so easy that there is no excuse. Just cc them in. It is far better that they are in the loop than on the outside when the client calls in to check their order.
In the ‘old days,’ you had to have meetings, go and see people at their desks, remember to call them with an update. Not now. Just include them in an email group. Or simply cc them on emails with the latest news about a project.
Of course, if they complain about the volume of emails they are getting, then perhaps you can suggest some inbox management techniques!