Productivity methods vary
Ask any professional what productivity methods they employ to give them a competitive advantage, and like fingerprints, every person will be different. Some people rely on old school methods like pen and paper and stopwatches, while others can’t live without smartphone apps, but either way, the quest for productivity is never ending.
One of the prudent steps toward improving your own productivity methods is to learn what is working for others, so in that spirit, we tapped some of the busiest people in the professional world and asked them what we were all thinking – how do you do it all?!
Social media expert relies on pen and paper
Scotland’s top social media strategist, consultant, and trainer, and Yard Digital’s Head of Social, Andrew Burnett sheds some light on how he juggles so much. “I use a moleskine notebook and a Caran d’Ache ballpoint pen to manage my day. The system I try to use is Tac Anderson’s GTD Hack although I do slip regularly into more basic list making.”
Burnett explains, “Actually taking the time to physically write something commits it to memory much easier than typing it, and all tasks are always in my pocket irrespective of battery life and/or connectivity.”
The competitive advantage goes to the well oiled machine
Jon Aston, Senior Consultant at Digital Giants sheds light on the tools they rely on most heavily to manage their team’s daily operations, citing Google, Skype, and project management software.
“We spend all day in our browsers – working with web apps in the cloud,” Aston tells AG. “Chrome is the browser of choice for 4/5 Giants. Looking past the browser, much of our work gets done in Google Apps for Business – especially Gmail, Calendar, and Drive.”
One tool others frequently hail that Digital Giants has leveraged is Teamwork project management software, which Aston says “is really quite brilliant and affordable, integrates tightly with Google Apps – and the tech support is second-to-none.”
And of course, there is Skype. Aston opines that “Most people think of Skype for free VOIP – but we use it all day long for instant messaging, link sharing, quick and easy file transfer, occasional screen sharing – and for quickly organizing coffee runs.”
PR Principal is “brutal” with her inbox
Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR is a Principal at Mind The Gap Public Relations, and handles very hectic days. How does she accomplish so much?
Every day, she sets aside time to read RSS feeds and visit social media sites, and regarding email management, she says, “I’m brutal with my inbox where I read, act, file or delete emails same day. And I use the flag system for follow-up. I have a separate email account for newsletters and such.”
For to do lists, she notes, “I’ve tried the online kind, but I’m always go back to pencil and paper.”
“It is all about timing,” van den Hurk asserts. “And just getting it done.”
Quick tip: sketchbooks!
David Svet, President of Spur Communications is very particular about his productivity methods, and while he uses the Google Apps Calendar and color coded events, he focuses on a more tangible asset. “I use a combination of GTD on Canson Universal Recycled Micro Perf Acid Free spiral sketchpads (8.5″x5.5″) because I can hold them upside down and backwards to accommodate being left handed.”
“I also like to sketch and make visual notations and the paper is good for that,” Svet added. “The Micro Perf makes it easy to cleanly tear out a sheet without the spiral bits and have a clean edge.”
PR pro always connected, but to more than just the web
Benson Hendrix, Public Relations Specialist at the University of New Mexico has an insane schedule, as he also runs the social media team for TEDxABQ as well as adjunct faculty at the University of New Mexico and studying for my APR (accreditation in public relations). And like many of the rest of us, he juggles all of that with married life.
So how does he manage? “I’m a technophile,” Hendrix explains, “but I need to find a way to keep organized across platforms (Mac, Android tablet and phone). I’ve always got Google Drive open on at least one browser tab. I have a document for important notes, for web links or notes that I want to share with students or TEDx post ideas. With Google Calendar I can keep track of a variety of appointments or upcoming tasks and I can update them from anywhere I can get data. With Google Drive I can update from any of my devices, and I’m always connected.”
But it’s more than just tools for Hendrix. “It may sound corny, but I usually wear my Buddhist Mala these days. My life is hectic, at times it almost seems like it’s coming apart at the seams but my Mala reminds me to take a few minutes at a time to slow down, be mindful of focusing on the moment and clear my mind. After that I can usually attack a task with a little more clarity.”
CEO of game development company is a scheduling pro
John Acunto, Founder and CEO of social platform game development company, 212 Decibels said, “In theory, managing a day, week or a month is easy with a great assistant, an iPad and a cell phone. I find that my days are full of the unexpected.”
Acunto added, “I schedule meetings with plenty of time before and after to address the daily issues that always arise. I also schedule an hour in the middle of day to follow up on the morning and arrange my thoughts for the balance of the day.”
“My key to remaining effective is keeping focused on the decisions required and staying in the moment,” Acunto noted. “I also use my digital notebook to keep up with my daily and weekly checklist, to ensure I don’t miss a beat.”
VP leverages technology like a pro
David Jones, VP of Social Media at Critical Mass was able to rapidly offer a litany of tech tools he uses every day to keep his insanely busy days on track.
“I work with many offices so I use RTM [Remember The Milk app] to keep my tasks listed, block of time in outlook calendar to get those tasks done,” said Jones. “Online meeting rooms are a must with agency teammates and clients in a variety of cities at any given time.” Jones uses these tools to connect with New York City, Chicago, Dallas, Palo Alto, Los Angeles and Toronto frequently, making tech tools critical to his day.
Focusing on a “wildly successful” outcome of tasks
Lisa Thorell is a Principal at Innovatini and manages a tremendous work load. Thorell manages goals and tasks daily against a deadline by implementing Excel spreadsheets for her own tasks, and Google Docs if engaging in joint activities.
Thorell says she uses the Hyatt-Gates note taking system, and tells AG that she has begun teasing out more “wildly successful” outcomes by asking one simple question (that question is explained here by Jeff Haden).
Executive speed reads, maximizes down time
Although Tinu Abayomi-Paul, Chief Visibility Officer at Leveraged Promotion employs endless productivity methods, but when asked to limit them to what gives her a competitive advantage, she had some actionable items you will be inspired by:
Abayomi-Paul does her to do lists the night before to get a head start on the day. She says her day is mapped out as follows: cash flow task for the day, research, then to-do list, then and only then, she engages in emails and meetings, never taking meetings before 11am. “No one ever died from not answering email as it comes in. Do cash-generating activities FIRST, or they constantly get pushed back,” she advises.
“I took a speed reading course, have speech to text on every device, and also type 80 words per minute so I can get my research, social networking, and blogging done faster,” Abayomi-Paul notes. “I leave social media read/reply/networking to when I’m bored and waiting. Standing in line, waiting for a meeting to start. Gives a built-in end time as well.”
Big retailers are opting for refunds instead of returns
(BUSINESS NEWS) Due to increased shipping costs, big companies like Amazon and Walmart are opting to give out a refund rather than accepting small items returned.
The holidays are over, and now some people are ready to return an item that didn’t quite work out or wasn’t on their Christmas list. Whatever the reason, some retailers are giving customers a refund and letting them keep the product, too.
When Vancouver, Washington resident, Lorie Anderson, tried returning makeup from Target and batteries from Walmart she had purchased online, the retailers told her she could keep or donate the products. “They were inexpensive, and it wouldn’t make much financial sense to return them by mail,” said Ms. Anderson, 38. “It’s a hassle to pack up the box and drop it at the post office or UPS. This was one less thing I had to worry about.”
Amazon.com Inc., Walmart Inc., and other companies are changing the way they handle returns this year, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). The companies are using artificial intelligence (AI) to weigh the costs of processing physical returns versus just issuing a refund and having customers keep the item.
For instance, if it costs more to ship an inexpensive or larger item than it is to refund the purchase price, companies are giving customers a refund and telling them to keep the products also. Due to an increase in online shopping, it makes sense for companies to change how they manage returns.
Locus Robotics chief executive Rick Faulk told the Journal that the biggest expense when it comes to processing returns is shipping costs. “Returning to a store is significantly cheaper because the retailer can save the freight, which can run 15% to 20% of the cost,” Faulk said.
But, returning products to physical stores isn’t something a lot of people are wanting to do. According to the return processing firm Narvar, online returns increased by 70% in 2020. With people still hunkered down because of the pandemic, changing how to handle returns is a good thing for companies to consider to reduce shipping expenses.
While it might be nice to keep the makeup or batteries for free, don’t expect to return that new PS5 and get to keep it for free, too. According to WSJ, a Walmart spokesperson said the company lets someone keep a refunded item only if the company doesn’t plan on reselling it. And, besides taking the economic costs into consideration, the companies look at the customer’s purchase history as well.
Google workers have formed company’s first labor union
(BUSINESS NEWS) A number of Google employees have agreed to commit 1% of their salary to labor union dues to support employee activism and fight workplace discrimination.
On Monday morning, Google workers announced that they have formed a union with the support of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the largest communications and media labor union in the U.S.
The new union, Alphabet Workers Union (AWU) was organized in secret for about a year and formed to support employee activism, and fight discrimination and unfairness in the workplace.
“From fighting the ‘real names’ policy, to opposing Project Maven, to protesting the egregious, multi-million dollar payouts that have been given to executives who’ve committed sexual harassment, we’ve seen first-hand that Alphabet responds when we act collectively. Our new union provides a sustainable structure to ensure that our shared values as Alphabet employees are respected even after the headlines fade,” stated Program Manager Nicki Anselmo in a press release.
AWU is the first union in the company’s history, and it is open to all employees and contractors at any Alphabet company in the United States and Canada. The cost of membership is 1% of an employee’s total compensation, and the money collected will be used to fund the union organization.
In a response to the announcement, Google’s Director of People Operations, Kara Silverstein, said, “We’ve always worked hard to create a supportive and rewarding workplace for our workforce. Of course, our employees have protected labor rights that we support. But as we’ve always done, we’ll continue engaging directly with all our employees.”
Unlike other labor unions, the AWU is considered a “Minority Union”. This means it doesn’t need formal recognition from the National Labor Relations Board. However, it also means Alphabet can’t be forced to meet the union’s demands until a majority of employees support it.
So far, the number of members in the union represents a very small portion of Google’s workforce, but it’s growing every day. When the news of the union was first announced on Monday, roughly 230 employees made up the union. Less than 24 hours later, there were 400 employees in the union, and now that number jumped to over 500 employees.
Unions among Silicon Valley’s tech giants are rare, but labor activism is slowly picking up speed, especially with more workers speaking out and organizing.
“The Alphabet Workers Union will be the structure that ensures Google workers can actively push for real changes at the company, from the kinds of contracts Google accepts to employee classification to wage and compensation issues. All issues relevant to Google as a workplace will be the purview of the union and its members,” stated the AWU in a press release.
Ticketmaster caught red-handed hacking, hit with major fines
(BUSINESS NEWS) Ticketmaster has agreed to pay $10 million to resolve criminal charges after hacking into a competitor’s network specifically to sabotage.
Live Nation’s Ticketmaster agreed to pay $10 million to resolve criminal charges after admitting to hacking into a competitor’s network and scheming to “choke off” the ticket seller company and “cut [victim company] off at the knees”.
Ticketmaster admitted hiring former employee, Stephen Mead, from startup rival CrowdSurge (which merged with Songkick) in 2013. In 2012, Mead signed a separation agreement to keep his previous company’s information confidential. When he joined Live Nation, Mead provided that confidential information to the former head of the Artist Services division, Zeeshan Zaidi, and other Ticketmaster employees. The hacking information shared with the company included usernames, passwords, data analytics, and other insider secrets.
“When employees walk out of one company and into another, it’s illegal for them to take proprietary information with them. Ticketmaster used stolen information to gain an advantage over its competition, and then promoted the employees who broke the law. This investigation is a perfect example of why these laws exist – to protect consumers from being cheated in what should be a fair market place,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney.
In January 2014, Mead gave a Ticketmaster executive multiple sets of login information to Toolboxes, the competitor’s password-protected app that provides real-time data about tickets sold through the company. Later, at an Artists Services Summit, Mead logged into a Toolbox and demonstrated the product to Live Nation and Ticketmaster employees. Information collected from the Toolboxes were used to “benchmark” Ticketmaster’s offerings against the competitor.
“Ticketmaster employees repeatedly – and illegally – accessed a competitor’s computers without authorization using stolen passwords to unlawfully collect business intelligence,” said Acting U.S. Attorney DuCharme in a statement. “Further, Ticketmaster’s employees brazenly held a division-wide ‘summit’ at which the stolen passwords were used to access the victim company’s computers, as if that were an appropriate business tactic.”
The hacking violations were first reported in 2017 when CrowdSurge sued Live Nation for antitrust violations. A spokesperson told The Verge, “Ticketmaster terminated both Zaidi and Mead in 2017, after their conduct came to light. Their actions violated our corporate policies and were inconsistent with our values. We are pleased that this matter is now resolved.”
To resolve the case, Ticketmaster will pay a $10 million criminal penalty, create a compliance and ethics program, and report to the United States Attorney’s Office annually during a three-year term. If the agreement is breached, Ticketmaster will be charged with: “One count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusions, one count of computer intrusion for commercial advantage, one count of computer intrusion in furtherance of fraud, one count of wire fraud conspiracy and one count of wire fraud.”
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