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Productivity methods used by top professionals

Productivity methods vary from office to office and professional to professional, and whether it is a sketchbook or an app that keeps professionals on task, we have highlighted several professionals’ productivity secrets.

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productivity methods

productivity methods

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.

What does Jones use? “Remember The Milk, Outlook Calendar, Tenrox for time tracking, and Jive for intranet/internal file sharing/cross-office collaboration.”

Jones adds that he uses Skype for instant messaging, the phone for conference calls, and Fuze, HP meetingroom and join.me for online presentation sharing.

“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.”

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Tinu

    March 20, 2013 at 12:33 am

    Yay! I’m famous again!!

    Seriously though, there are a Lot f great tips in here.

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Business News

Uh, did Amazon just start an MLM?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Amazon’s advertisement for their new “partnership” sounds suspiciously like a multi-level marketing scheme.

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Amazon delivery

Amazon’s labor abuses are beyond well-established. Just peruse Google for a while if you need examples. You’ll see stories from employees who have been denied bathroom breaks, or forced to continue working after coworkers have died on the job. Yet somehow despite all of these allegations, they have managed to sink lower with their reprehensible practices.

Recently, Amazon ran a swath of Facebook ads asking, “Have you ever wanted to own a business? As an Amazon Delivery Service Partner, you’ll start your own package-delivery business, build a team, and have access to Amazon’s technology and logistics expertise.”

Amazon partnership ad

If you’ve ever been DM’ed by a long-lost school acquaintance with an “amazing business opportunity”, you might have the same reaction to that as I did: Uh, did Amazon just start an MLM?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines multi-level marketing as “a business structure or practice in which an individual seller earns commissions both from direct sales and from the sales of the seller’s recruits, of those recruited by the seller’s recruits, and so on.” As recruiting becomes more important than selling products, only a slim minority of particularly successful recruiters end up seeing profits in an MLM.

DSPs are not buying or selling Amazon products, nor are they being incentivized for signing up others to be delivery partners. They are meant to serve as the last leg of transportation between Amazon warehouses and consumers. In fact, Amazon makes the exclusivity of the program clear on their website. DSPs are able to hire between 40-100 staff, but this bears more resemblance to chain franchising than a pyramid scheme, at least on the surface. After all, some of the most predatory MLMS out there began seemingly innocently – just look at Mary Kay.

Amazon requires Delivery Service Partners to have at least $30,000 to fully cover all costs associated with starting up: Not just for uniforms, leases on Amazon branded trucks, insurance, and mobile scanners, but also the applicant’s cost-of-living while getting their business off the ground.

It’s scummy enough that their advertising is taking notes from the MLM playbook. But it actually raises more red flags than it resolves: The DSP program seems like yet another example of how the definition of an employee is getting blurrier by the day.

Uber and Lyft, for example, lease vehicles for their drivers in the same way that Amazon leases trucks and other equipment for their Delivery Service Partners. Rideshare drivers, like DSPs, are responsible for their own insurance costs and have no guaranteed income, either. Amazon is clearly trying to skirt its way around the responsibilities they would ordinarily have as an employer, a problem that unfortunately lies at the heart of the sharing economy.

Amazon’s decision to expand their delivery fleet also comes at an uncanny time. Right now, the United States Postal Service is severely underfunded and its future is uncertain. It provides business owners of all sizes with low-cost mail and parcel delivery, and is obligated to deliver to every home address in the United States.

While the USPS does partner with Amazon to deliver packages, it’s still awfully convenient for Amazon to be introducing this “business opportunity” now. Under the guise of supporting entrepreneurship, Amazon is preparing a death blow to their smaller competitors – think independent retailers, suppliers, crafters and artists that rely on affordable, accessible postage to sell their goods.

While it’s a stretch to label this program an MLM right out of the gate, the whole thing still stinks to high heaven, and we recommend you steer clear. Make no mistake, this is a business opportunity for Amazon alone.

If you dream of owning a business and you have $30,000 to invest, that is a great start! But for goodness sake, invest that in yourself. It would be a shame to waste your time and money lining a mega-corporation’s pockets.

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Business News

Dunkin’ Donuts is closing 800 stores soon

(BUSINESS NEWS) No one is immune to COVID-19. Dunkin’ Donuts announces 800 location closures across the US.

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Dunkin coffee

You may want to savor that Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee a little longer than usual this summer. Dunkin’ Donuts has recently announced they will be permanently closing over 800 locations across the United States; this represents 8% of their total locations across the United States.

Dunkin’ announced these closures along with their second quarter earnings. The stores set to close only represent about 2% of Dunkin’s total US sales, so this move will likely help them cut down operating costs in some lower performing locations. Dunkin’ has descried the closures as being part of a “real estate portfolio rationalization.”

Dunkin’ is focusing cuts on what they identify as their “low-volume sales locations” with more than half of these being locations inside Speedway convenience stores. The Speedway locations will be closing first – many of them before the end of the year. Dunkin’ is also planning to close about 350 international locations by the end of 2020.

While this might mean your favorite iced coffee fix will no longer be within arm’s reach, it’s likely that this move will help Dunkin’ Donuts survive long term. The real worry here is what does it mean when even large international brands, like Dunkin’ Donuts, are starting to feel the sting of COVID-19 on the economy? The restaurant industry has been taking big hits during the pandemic – even McDonalds has announced a small percentage of upcoming store closures.

If big chains with cult followings like Dunkin’ Donuts are making cuts, then what hope do small businesses have of making it through the year?

PPP loans and other local government aid programs are temporarily helping small businesses across the country stay afloat, but we still haven’t seen a guarantee that more help is on the way. Current aid packages will only keep businesses going for so long before small business owners will be forced to make tough choices.

If Dunkin’ Donuts moves out of your area, you might want to consider taking your caffeine addiction (and cash) to a local coffee shop or bakery. They could use the love and you may even find a new favorite iced coffee.

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Business News

Some people will be working from home until 2021, or longer

(BUSINESS NEWS) As remote work becomes more common, some employees won’t be returning to the office–ever. Big Tech has almost unilaterally jumped on board.

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Remote work

How does working remotely until 2021 sound to you? How about for the rest of your career? Both of these are options that more companies are considering, begging the overarching question: How many job obligations can, realistically, be accomplished from home?

Well, as it turns out, many of your favorite tech giants fit the bill. Facebook, Twitter, Square, Slack, Shopify, and Zillow have all announced that employees can stay home–forever.

Twitter was the first company to get the ball rolling on this movement–an accolade that Twitter hasn’t been able to claim since its inception.

It isn’t surprising that most tech-oriented jobs can be done remotely, but the initiative to allow employees to continue their work remotely shows an exceptional level of trust and accommodation on the parts of the respective companies–and it raises some future possibilities for others in the industry. As some occupations begin transitioning back to in-office work, it’s interesting to see others standing firm in their decisions.

Additionally, many firms have encountered difficulties with the move to remote work, with issues ranging from employee productivity, all the way to security breaches and complications with employees using their own devices for confidential tasks. It’s interesting to see that, in spite of these difficulties, remote work is still an attractive option for companies like Twitter and Facebook.

Of course, not every tech company is allowing their employees to take a permanent staycation. Google, Sony, Amazon corporate, and a few others are extending remote work up to 2021, thus allowing employees to continue social distancing practices amidst COVID-19 concerns. These companies have also made it clear that employees will be able to continue working from home into 2021 if necessary, but for now, employees should anticipate returning at some point.

Non-tech companies–and pretty much any company that doesn’t operate largely from behind a computer–are going to continue to run into challenges with balancing remote work and actual productivity, so holding up the standard set by companies such as Twitter and Google isn’t really feasible for them; however, looking at these tech companies’ measures is inspiring, and others should take note–if for no other reason than the fact that employees love remote work options.

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