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.”
Keep your company’s operations lean by following these proven strategies
(BUSINESS) Keeping your operations lean means more than saving money, it means accomplishing more in less time.
The past two years have been challenging, not just economically, but also politically and socially as well. While it would be nice to think that things are looking up, in reality, the problems never end. Taking a minimalist approach to your business, AKA keeping it lean, can help you weather the future to be more successful.
Here are some tips to help you trim the fat without putting profits above people.
Artificial intelligence frees up human resources. AI can manage many routine elements of your business, giving your team time to focus on important tasks that can’t be delegated to machines. This challenges your top performers to function at higher levels, which can only benefit your business.
Consider remote working
Whether you rent or own your property, it’s expensive to keep an office open. As we learned in the pandemic, many jobs can be done just as effectively from home as the workplace. Going remote can save you money, even if you help your team outfit their home office for safety and efficiency.
In today’s world, many are opting to completely shutter office doors, but you may be able to save money by using less space or renting out some of your office space.
Review your systems to find the fat
As your business grows (or downsizes), your systems need to change to fit how you work. Are there places where you can save money? If you’re ordering more, you may be able to ask vendors for discounts. Look for ways to bring down costs.
Talk to your team about where their workflow suffers and find solutions. An annual review through your budget with an eye on saving money can help you find those wasted dollars.
Find the balance
Operating lean doesn’t mean just saving money. It can also mean that you look at your time when deciding to pay for services. The point is to be as efficient as possible with your resources and systems, while maintaining customer service and safety. When you operate in a lean way, it sets your business up for success.
How to apply to be on a Board of Directors
(BUSINESS) What do you need to think about and explore if you want to apply for a Board of Directors? Here’s a quick rundown of what, why, and when.
What does a Board of Directors do? Investopedia explains “A board of directors (B of D) is an elected group of individuals that represent shareholders. The board is a governing body that typically meets at regular intervals to set policies for corporate management and oversight. Every public company must have a board of directors. Some private and nonprofit organizations also have a board of directors.”
It is time to have a diverse representation of thoughts, values and insights from intelligently minded people that can give you the intel you need to move forward – as they don’t have quite the same vested interests as you.
We have become the nation that works like a machine. Day in and day out we are consumed by our work (and have easy access to it with our smartphones). We do volunteer and participate in extra-curricular activities, but it’s possible that many of us have never understood or considered joining a Board of Directors. There’s a new wave of Gen Xers and Millennials that have plenty of years of life and work experience + insights that this might be the time to resurrect (or invigorate) interest.
Harvard Business Review shared a great article about identifying the FIVE key areas you would want to consider growing your knowledge if you want to join a board:
1. Financial – You need to be able to speak in numbers.
2. Strategic – You want to be able to speak to how to be strategic even if you know the numbers.
3. Relational – This is where communication is key – understanding what you want to share with others and what they are sharing with you. This is very different than being on the Operational side of things.
4. Role – You must be able to be clear and add value in your time allotted – and know where you especially add value from your skills, experiences and strengths.
5. Cultural – You must contribute the feeling that Executives can come forward to seek advice even if things aren’t going well and create that culture of collaboration.
As Charlotte Valeur, a Danish-born former investment banker who has chaired three international companies and now leads the UK’s Institute of Directors, says, “We need to help new participants from under-represented groups to develop the confidence of working on boards and to come to know that” – while boardroom capital does take effort to build – “this is not rocket science.”
NOW! The time is now for all of us to get involved in helping to create a brighter future for organizations and businesses that we care about (including if they are our own business – you may want to create a Board of Directors).
The Harvard Business Review gave great explanations of the need to diversify those that have been on the Boards to continue to strive to better represent our population as a whole. Are you ready to take on this challenge? We need you.
Average age of successful startup founders is 45, but stop stereotyping
(BUSINESS) Our culture glorifies (yet condemns?) startup founders as rich 20-somethings in hoodies, but some are a totally different type.
There’s a common misconception that startups are riddled with semi-nerdy, 20-something white dudes who do nothing but sip Nitro Brews and walk around the open office showing off the hoodie they wore yesterday. It turns out that it’s extremely rare that startup offices resemble The Social Network.
However, the academic backdrop for the real social network story (AKA Harvard), produced statistics that will serve to put the aforementioned misconception to rest. According to the Harvard Business Review, the average age of people who founded the highest-growth startups is 45. Say what?! A full-fledged adult?!
In fact, aside from the age category of 60 and over, ages 29 and younger were the smallest group of founders that are responsible for heading the highest-growth startups. I guess you can accomplish a lot when you’re not riding around the office on a scooter all day.
The study also found that older entrepreneurs are more likely to succeed. The probability of extreme startup success rises with age, at least until the late 50s. It was found that work experience plays an important role.
Many will argue, “Well, what about someone like Steve Jobs?” You could easily argue right back that it took Jobs until the age of 52 to create Apple’s most profitable product – the iPhone.
The study continues to answer questions like, why do Venture Capitalist investors bet on young founders? This goes back to the misconception at the start, and there’s a notion that youth is the key for successful entrepreneurship. Wrong.
There is also the idea that younger entrepreneurs are likely working with less financial options, so it may be common for them to take something from a VC at a lower price. As a result, they could be viewed as more of a bargain than older founders.
“The next step for researchers is to explore what exactly explains the advantage of middle-aged founders,” writes Pierre Azoulay, et al. “For example, is it due to greater access to financial resources, deeper social networks, or certain forms of experience? In the meantime, it appears that advancing age is a powerful feature, not a bug, for starting the most successful firms.”
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