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Productivity tools executives say they can’t live without

Productivity tools keep people in the business world focused and ahead of the game, but every person’s toolbox is unique. Let’s take a peek.

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Productivity tools that make the world go around

When you read about productivity tools, it is typically a list of slick apps and of course iPhones, but every professional in each industry is different, some relying on pen and paper, others swearing by email inbox tools. So we set out to ask a handful of leaders from various industries what productivity tools they can’t live without:

Scott Lerner, Founder of Solixir said, “E-mail is for sure a productivity tool for me. It allows me to work when and where I want. Without it I don’t know what I would do. To that end, my iPhone 5 is crucial to running the business. I can be away from the office and still get 85% of the things done I need to. Not to mention all the productivity apps.”

A walking toolbox

Benn Rosales, CEO and Founder of AGBeat favors Post-it notes at his desk, but is a walking toolbox filled with tech toys from his Google Chromebook, iPad mini, Microsoft Surface RT, HP TouchSmart desktop and Android HTC Evo, all of which keep him constantly connected. “Being equipped to communicate with anyone on any device or platform has been truly powerful – I make it easy for my team and partners to come to me.”

Rosales and his team rely heavily on Google tools (Gmail, Google Drive, Google Apps, G+ Hangouts, GCal, etc.) because they can be done on mobile and desktop, and he says he favors his Android because it allows him to use multiple Gmail accounts, which he uses to prioritize incoming emails, calling the ability to multi-task “epic” in comparison to his iPad.

“I keep it simple – I email and text myself notes a lot, like if I need to schedule something or follow up.” He uses Skype on his Microsoft Surface RT and prefers to do all web development from his HP desktop, noting that Balsamiq “is definitely THE best tool for web design.” Three Chrome extensions he says he can’t live with are SEO Site Tools, Awesome Screenshot, and Firebug.

Super prioritization with the help of some tech

“I’m very big on prioritizing tasks,” says TakeLessons CEO Steven Cox. “The idea is, never work on a ‘B’ when you have an ‘A’ to work on, forget the ‘C’s! I use a system called ActiveInbox to manage my priority list. When an email comes in, I assign it a priority level, a due date and a project that it’s related to. From there, I do what I call 90 minute sprints.”

“For example,” Cox added, “today I want to work on my new investor presentation, so I’ll take 90 minutes, close my office door, close everything else down and pull up that project on ActiveInbox. My highest priority tasks are already sorted for me, so I’ll start on the A’s until they’re done, then I’ll work on the B’s and so on, straight through for 90 minutes. I get a lot of satisfaction from that because I know that even if I only get one task done, it’s my most critical task.”

Nell Merlino, Founder of Count Me In said she can’t live without her iPad, Blackberry (and says she’s ready to buy the Q), bicycle (noting that exercise is critical to productivity), and the Small Business Perfect Pitch App available on iTunes since she is “always pitching CMI and the benefits of being able to tell it so you can sell it.”

Getting ahead of the game

Email, smartphone, and GPS are the tools Iggy Fanlo, CEO of Lively says he can’t live without.

Noelle Federico, CFO of DreamsTime said, “I am pretty sure that I cannot live without my iPhone and my Outlook Express and a good old fashioned notebook and number 2 pencil, even with all the tools out there I still derive great satisfaction from keeping a written “to-do” list in a spiral bound notebook—there is something satisfying about crossing items off the list.”

“As the CEO of a growing startup, you can imagine the plethora of activities happening on a daily basis,” said RiseSmart Founder and CEO Sanjay Sathe. “Being ahead of the game is critical. I use Outlook for a number of things. I classify emails into different categories like “Immediate,” “Can Wait” and “Read.” I also use the To Do list in order to keep track of what needs to get done across all functional areas of my company. On a more personal note, I use Fitbit and MyFitnessPal to keep track of personal productivity – in this case my health.”

iPhone, iPhone, iPhone

Paul Aitken, CEO of borro said, “Without a doubt, it has to be my iPhone and access to my email when I’m on the move.”

Donna Horton Novitsky, CEO of Yiftee is also hooked on her cell phone (iPhone or Android), her laptop, and we were pleased to hear her say that her microwave oven also keeps her productive! How refreshingly honest.

Nancy A. Aossey, President and CEO of International Medical Corps said the productivity tool she can’t live without is a daily To Do list. “Also, constant BlackBerry, iPad and phone communications. I continue to rely on my paper calendar, which is backed up electronically. I still use paper since I like to see the month and year quickly spread out in front of me in a way that electronic calendars don’t do. We use Skype heavily, connecting our headquarters and field offices around the world, as well as online information sharing tools and intranet programs.”

Everyone has a different regimen to keep them focused – tell us in the comments that productivity tools you can’t live without.

Marti Trewe reports on business and technology news, chasing his passion for helping entrepreneurs and small businesses to stay well informed in the fast paced 140-character world. Marti rarely sleeps and thrives on reader news tips, especially about startups and big moves in leadership.

Business News

Tis the season for employment scams – here’s what to look out for

(BUSINESS NEWS) Desperate times call for desperate measures. Seasonal employment scams are back on the menu and here’s how you can avoid them.

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A serious man considers a clipboard in potential employment scams.

With the sheer amount of desperation surrounding the holidays, employment scams typically have a resurgence during this season. Thanks to the Better Business Bureau, there are some clear warning signs that can help you spot and avoid seasonal scams this year.

The typical crux of any employment scam revolves around a prospective employee’s willingness to pay for something upfront, be it training or some other kind of quasi-justifiable item (e.g., a uniform). However, other iterations of the scam actually involve an “employer” overpaying for something at the onset—albeit with a fake check—and then asking the recipient to wire “back” the extra money.

Either way, these scams can leave you jobless and with less money than you initially had, so here are some things for which you should watch out.

Firstly, employers shouldn’t ever charge you before hiring you. Some industries do require employees to make small purchases on their own dime (i.e., the aforementioned uniform), but payroll will usually deduct the cost of these materials from the employee’s first paycheck—not require payment upfront.

As a general rule, it’s probably best to avoid companies that charge you at all. Aramark, for example, is known for requiring employees to buy company clothes—and they’re no peach to work with. But desperate times may warrant an exception in this regard.

It’s also to your benefit to avoid postings that boast an “interview-free” experience. Put simply, no one is hiring sans an interview unless it’s nepotism or a scam. If you aren’t related to the poster, that doesn’t leave much up for interpretation. Similarly, advertising a large sum of money for disproportionately low amounts of work is a pretty big warning sign.

Finally, watch out for jobs that ask for a work sample before hiring. While this is common for internships, most entry-level positions and beyond aren’t going to require you to complete a project for free before determining whether or not you’re good for the job. At best, this is a tactic to get free work from you; at worst, your application information can be stolen.

It’s sad to think that people would stoop to the level of scamming others amidst the dumpster fire of a year it’s been, but if you avoid these red flags, you should be able to keep yourself safe during this holiday season.

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Business News

Genomelink is a one-stop-shop for your DNA data, but is it safe?

(NEWS) Genomelink is presenting a dashboard product to unlock further insights using your genetic data. Sounds cool…until you think about privacy.

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dna ancestry tests representing genomelink

Have you ever done one of those nifty home test kits to check your ancestry? In this new world where covid is a long-term reality and the resulting boom in telehealth services, genetic home test kits are seeing a comeback in popularity. What many consumers aren’t aware of, is what happens to their data after they get their report back. Now, there is a new contender in the market called Genomelink that is presenting a dashboard product to unlock further insights using your genetic data. That sounds cool… until you start thinking about privacy.

Most of the major companies in the business don’t even give you the option to not have your data sold, but that fact is buried so far into the fine print, it is no wonder that people miss it. Research published in the journal Nature found that genetic-testing companies frequently fail to meet even basic international transparency standards. Unifying all this data into one dashboard product unlocks even more opportunities for your data to be compromised.

There are four big glaring red flags prospective users should be aware of:

1. Cyber security standards in the genetic testing industry are low-tier.

2. The protocols for how to make your information “anonymous” before they sell it en masse are laughably ineffective.

3. There are no restrictions on who can purchase it or for what purpose.

4. Genomelink is trying to build a platform to streamline access to this data for “all users everywhere.”

Genomelink Co-founder Tomohiro Takano provided the following quote on ProductHunt.com: “We believe in the future, billions of people will have access to their DNA data. When that happens, imagine: [the place] where you will store DNA data and how you [will] connect data [to an] app ecosystem. That will be Genomelink in a nutshell.”

As someone who lives with disabilities, the last people I want to have access to my DNA data are health or life insurance providers or other for-profit interests who may not have my best interests in mind. Genomelink’s vision sounds like the well-intentioned beginning of something with the potential to be abused in sinister ways.

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Business News

9-to-5 workdays are no longer the norm: Flexibility brings productivity

(BUSINESS) Doing away with 9-to-5 workdays in a cubicle can work wonders for a team’s productivity. This is no longer a dream, but today’s reality.

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productivity outside of the challenging the norm of 9-to-5 workdays

As we’ve seen in recent years, many of the old concepts about work have been turned on their heads. Many offices allow a more casual dress as compared to the suit and tie standard, and more and more teams have the option of working remotely. One of these concepts that have been in flux for a bit is challenging the norm of 9-to-5 workdays. Offices are giving more options of flex hours and remote work, with the understanding that the work must be completed effectively and efficiently with these flexibilities.

Recently, I got sucked into one of those quick-cut Facebook videos about a company that decided to test out the method of a four-day workweek. This gave employees the option of what day they would like to take off, or, it gave employees the option to work all five days of the week, but with flex hours.

Despite the decrease in hours worked, employees were still paid for a 40-hour workweek which continued their incentive to get the same amount of work done in a more flexible manner. With this shift in time use, the results found that employees wasted less time around the office with mindless chit-chat, as they understood there was less time to waste.

The boss in this office had each team explain how they were going to deliver the same level of productivity. The video did not share the explanations, but it could be assumed that the incentive of a day off would encourage employees to continue their level of productivity, if not increase it.

This was done with the goal of working smarter, rather than harder. Finding ways to manage time better (like finishing up a task before starting another one) helps to stay efficient.

During the trial, it was found that productivity, team engagement, and morale all increased, while stress levels decreased. Having time for yourself (an extra day off) and not overworking yourself are important keys to being balanced and engaged.

There is such a stigma about the way you have to operate in order to be successful (e.g. getting up early, using every hour at your disposal, and using free time to meditate).

Let’s get real – we all need a little free time to check back in with ourselves by doing something mindless (like a good old-fashioned Game of Thrones binge). If not, we’ll go bonkers.

Flex hours and remote working are not all about having time to do morning yoga and read best-seller after best-seller. Flex hours give us the time to take our kids to and from school and comfortably wear our parenting caps without fear of getting fired for not showing up to work precisely at 9 AM.

9-to-5 workdays are becoming dated and I’m glad to see that happen. So many people run themselves ragged within this frame and it’s impossible to find that happy work-life balance. Using flex options can help people manage every aspect of their lives in a positive way.

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