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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

Leadership versus management: What’s the difference?

(Business News) The two terms, leadership and management, are often used interchangeably, but there are substantial differences; let’s explore them.

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leadership Startups meeting led by Black woman.

Some people use the terms “leader” and “manager” interchangeably, and while there is nothing inherently wrong with this, there is still a debate regarding their similarities or differences.

Is it merely a matter of preference, or are there cut and dry differences that define each term?

Ronald E. Riggio, professor of leadership and organizational psychology at Claremont McKenna College, described what he felt to be the difference between the terms, noting the commonality in the distinction of “leadership” versus “management” was that leaders tend to engage in the “higher” functions of running an organization, while managers handle the more mundane tasks.

However, Riggio believes it is only a matter of semantics because successful and effective leaders and managers must do the same things. They must set the standard for followers and the organization, be willing to motivate and encourage, develop good working relationships with followers, be a positive role model, and motivate their team to achieve goals.

He states that there is a history explaining the difference between the two terms: business schools and “management” departments adopted the term “manager” because the prevailing view was that managers were in charge.

They were still seen as “professional workers with critical roles and responsibilities to help the organization succeed, but leadership was mostly not in the everyday vocabulary of management scholars.”

Leadership on the other hand, derived from organizational psychologists and sociologists who were interested in the various roles across all types of groups.

So, “leader” became the term to define someone who played a key role in “group decision making and setting direction and tone for the group. For psychologists, manager was a profession, not a key role in a group.”

When their research began to merge with business school settings, they brought the term “leadership” with them, but the terms continued to be used to mean different things.

The short answer, according to Riggio is no, not really; simply because leaders and managers need the same skills to be productive and respected.

This editorial was first published here in June of 2014.

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Business News

Does Raising Cane’s have the secret to combatting restaurant labor shortages?

(NEWS) Fried Chicken Franchise, Raising Cane’s, has turned to an unusual source of front-line employees during the labor shortage- Their executives!

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White paper sign with black text reading "Help Wanted."

I wouldn’t call myself a fried chicken aficionado or anything, but since chains are designed to blow up everywhere, I have experienced Raising Cane’s.

I’m pretty sure the Cane’s sauce is just barbecue mixed with ranch, but hey, when you’ve got a good idea, keep with it.

In the further pursuit of good ideas, the company has resorted to an intriguing method of boosting staff in a world where the lowest paid among us are still steadily dying of Covid, and/or choosing to peace out of jobs that they don’t find worth the infection risk.

Via Nation Restaurant News: “This is obviously a very tough time, so it was a joint idea of everybody volunteering together to go out there and be recruiters, fry cooks and cashiers —whatever it takes,” said AJ Kumaran, co-CEO and chief operating officer for the Baton Rouge, La.-based quick-service company, from a restaurant in Las Vegas, where he had deployed himself.”

The goal of this volunteer mission, which involves 250 of the 500 executives deployed working directly in service roles, is to bolster locations until 10,000 new hires can be made in both existing locations and locations planned to open.

It’s obvious that this is a bandaid move – execs exist for good reason, and in terms of sheer numbers (not to mention location and salary changes), this is hardly tenable long-term. But I can say this as someone who’s gone from retail to office, and back (and then forth…and then back again) several times – if this doesn’t keep everyone at the corporate level humble, and much more mindful of employees’ needs, nothing will.

The fast-food world is notorious for wonky schedules only going up a day before the week begins, broken promises on hours (both over and under), horrendous pay, and little to no defense of employee dignity in the face of customers with rank dispositions. With the wave of strikes (Nabisco, John Deere, IATSE) making the news, and lack of hazard pay/brutal physical attacks over mask mandates still very fresh in workers’ minds, smart companies are hipping themselves to the fact that “low level” employee acquisition and retention needs to be much more than the ‘work here or starve’ tactics that have served since the beginning of decades of wage stagnation. The best way for that fact to stay front-of-mind is to go out and live the truths behind it.

In Raising Cane’s case, the company also announced that they’re upping wages at all locations — to the tune of an actually not totally insulting $2 per hour, resulting in a starting wage of $15 and a managerial wage of $18.

Ideally, paying people more to cook, clean, and customer service all in one job will actually attract people back to fast food work. Seriously consider the fact that the people cleaning fast-food toilets are the same people making the food that goes into your mouth. The additional fact is that it’s better for everyone’s health when they’re paid enough to care about what they’re doing and stay healthy themselves.

Of course, one does also need to consider how much inflation has affected the price of goods and housing since the ‘fight for $15’ began almost a decade ago in 2012. Now, raising wages closer to the end point of multiple goods still might not be enough!

AJ Kumaran continued, “The chicken prices are through the roof. Logistics are very hard. Shipping is difficult. Simple things cups and paper napkins — everything is in shortage right now. Some are overseas suppliers and others domestic suppliers. Just in poultry alone, we have taken significant inflation.”

That’s global disruption for ya.

It remains to be seen whether this plucky move can save Raising Cane’s dark meat, but I’m very pro regardless. Send more top-earning employees into the trenches! No more executives with 0 knowledge of how the sausage sandwich gets made.

No more leading from behind.

Why not? What are ya? Chicken?

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Business News

Unify your remote team with these important conversations

(BUSINESS NEWS) More than a happy hour, consider having these poignant conversations to bring your remote team together like never before.

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Woman working in office with remote team

Cultivating a team dynamic is difficult enough without everyone’s Zoom feed freezing halfway through “happy” hour. You may not be able to bond over margaritas these days, but there are a few conversations you can have to make your team feel more supported—and more comfortable with communicating.

According to Forbes, the first conversation to have pertains to individual productivity. Ask your employees, quite simply, what their productivity indicators are. Since you can’t rely on popping into the office to see who is working on a project and who is beating their Snake score, knowing how your employees quantify productivity is the next-best thing. This may lead to a conversation about what you want to see in return, which is always helpful for your employees to know.

Another thing to discuss with your employees regards communication. Determining which avenues of communication are appropriate, which ones should be reserved for emergencies, and which ones are completely off the table is key. For example, you might find that most employees are comfortable texting each other while you prefer Slack or email updates. Setting that boundary ahead of time and making it “office” policy will help prevent strain down the road.

Finally, checking in with your employees about their expectations is also important. If you can discuss the sticky issue of who deals with what, whose job responsibilities overlap, and what each person is predominantly responsible for, you’ll negate a lot of stress later. Knowing exactly which of your employees specialize in specific areas is good for you, and it’s good for the team as a whole.

With these 3 discussions out of the way, you can turn your focus to more nebulous concepts, the first of which pertains to hiring. Loop your employees in and ask them how they would hire new talent during this time; what aspects would they look for, and how would they discern between candidates without being able to meet in-person? It may seem like a trivial conversation, but having it will serve to unify further your team—so it’s worth your time.

The last crucial conversation, per Forbes, is simple: Ask your employees what they would prioritize if they became CEOs tomorrow. There’s a lot of latitude for goofy responses here, but you’ll hear some really valuable—and potentially gut-wrenching—feedback you wouldn’t usually receive. It never hurts to know what your staff prioritize as idealists.

Unifying your staff can be difficult, but if you start with these conversations, you’ll be well on your way to a strong team during these trying times.

This story was first published in November 2020.

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