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15 Free Resources To Get You More Organized In 2016

15 Free Resources To Get You More Organized In 2016

So, it’s 2016 and you’re ready to get your life organized, once and for all. The question is how? There’s only so much that you can manually manage all by yourself, and trying to take on too much can cause you to get stuck in the never-ending cycle of “busy work” that keeps you from working on the things that really move the needle.

If you’ve been really struggling to hold it all together lately, perhaps it’s time to take advantage of some of the following productivity resources and tools that are freely available to use online. They can help automate some of your most tedious tasks, speed up your progress, and keep track of everything while you’re at it.

1. Google Drive

Google Drive is the ultimate cloud-based platform for storing, managing, sharing, and collaborating on files. You can create documents, spreadsheets, slides, forms, and drawings directly in Google Drive while keeping them neatly organized in folders to be edited anytime you want. All changes are synced right across your account.

As a Google product, Google Drive is integrated with other popular Google products like Gmail and Google Photos. If you work in teams, files and folders can be shared so that everyone who has access to them can see and make updates in real-time so that everyone has the most updated version of the file.

2. Evernote

Similar to Google Drive, Evernote is a cloud-based platform designed for creating and storing all sorts of different files. It’s generally viewed as an advanced note-taking tool that allows you to organize your notes into notebooks with optional tags for even more precise categorization.

Evernote also has an incredibly useful web clipper tool, which is a browser extension you can use to easily save whole web pages, small sections, or just the URL as a bookmark to your account. Any notes that you create and manage can also be shared and managed by other Evernote users who are invited to do so.

3. IFTTT

There’s a good chance that you use a lot of apps and tools already—both for personal and professional reasons. IFTTT (If This Then That) is an incredibly helpful tool that can connect one app to another, giving you the opportunity to set a specific “trigger” between them that automatically generates a specific action. These are called “recipes.”

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For example, if you use Evernote a lot, you could create a recipe that automatically uploads any new note that has a tag attached to it to your Google Drive account. This saves you the time and energy from having to do it manually. IFTTT works with lots of different apps, and the recipe variations that are possible to create are virtually endless.

4. Any.do

The old fashioned “To-Do” list using pen and paper often ends up being more of a hindrance than a help at the end of the day. To help you succeed at actually crossing more things off your list, Any.do allows you to categorize list items according to work or personal goals while offering you small rewards for completing them.

You get four types of lists to build (Today, Tomorrow, Upcoming, and Someday) to help you plan ahead, and you can manage your list from the desktop web or any mobile device with the Any.do app. Any items you add or cross off are synced across your account so you always have the most updated list wherever you go.

5. Cal

Cal is Any.do’s stylish calendar app that integrates with your to-do lists. It gives you a weekly calendar view of your list items so that you can see exactly when you need to complete each item. You can also use it to manage events and appointments according to date and time.

Simply tap a day to see all the list items for that day. When you tap an item, it will automatically open up the Any.do app so that you can make edits to the item or cross it off your list.

6. Pocket

Ever come across a really great article or video in one of your social feeds, but don’t have time to check it out at the moment? Pocket makes it easy for you to save it for later with just a simple click of your mouse or tap to your smartphone screen.

Save links from your web browser, Facebook, Twitter, email, Flipboard and all your other favorite places where you love to browse content. When you’ve got some spare time to check them out, just open up your Pocket feed on your computer or mobile device to see a clean and organized list of everything you’ve saved.

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7. Digg Reader

Instead of visiting every one of your favorite blogs one by one, an easier way to stay updated on recent posts is by subscribing to their RSS feeds using a feed reader. Digg Reader is a popular choice that lets you add as many as RSS feeds as you want so that you can stay on top of new post headlines almost as soon as they’re posted.

When you read a post that you really like, you can “digg” it to give it a personal thumbs up, or use the save button to save it for later. Folders also make it easy to categorize your RSS feed subscriptions so that you can organize blogs according to subject, like news, health, sports, technology, and so on.

8. Asana

It’s easy enough to collaborate on files by using Google Drive or Evernote, but when you have several teammates who need to work more closely on big projects and all the tasks that come with it, a platform with more advanced features is often necessary to keep everything organized and running smoothly. Asana is a team collaboration tool that gives every user their own dashboard so that they can work together with their teammates to assign tasks, track progress, have conversations, receive notifications, store files, and so much more.

It’s free for teams of up to 15 people with unlimited usage for tasks, projects, conversations, and file attachments. Besides the convenience of having a central place to store and share all your project files, the added benefit of being able to interact and chat about each task directly within the platform itself will help take your team’s productivity to a whole new level.

9. Doodle

Doodle can help you take the headache out of coordinating a time to meet with friends or colleagues. Instead of getting on the phone multiple times or having to send text messages and emails back and forth, you can use Doodle to send out a schedule poll with a few suggested dates and times to meet so that recipients can choose the ones that work best for them.

When the poll reveals an optimal date and time that works for everyone, you can close the poll and confirm it with everyone. It saves you a ton of time and energy by only requiring two emails to be sent, and it can even be integrated with other popular calendar apps like Google Calendar, Exchange, Outlook, and others.

10. LastPass

Most of us have too many passwords to keep track of these days, and ideally, you should have a different one made of a complex combination of characters per login for strong security. LastPass is a free password management tool that stores all of your passwords away safely in a vault so that you can organize them and quickly perform a search to find the one you need at any time.

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LastPass also comes in the form of an extension for popular web browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.) so that you can easily save passwords as you’re browsing and have your passwords automatically filled in the fields for you anytime you visit a specific login page. Password access and automatic app fill is also available on mobile devices when you use the LastPass app.

11. Mint

No matter how financially stable or unstable a person may be, managing budgets is a good idea for everyone. From the makers of some of the most popular financial software, Mint is the ultimate money management and budget creation tool that safely and securely connects to your bank account to track every transaction.

You can automatically generate budgets tailored to your needs, set up alerts for unusual account charges, get a free credit score, see a bird’s eye view of your overall financial life, and even get tips on how to improve your finances. Mint breaks everything down for you using easy-to-read reports and graphs so that you always know exactly how you’re spending and saving.

12. Camcard

Business cards are often more of a nuisance than anything else—especially when you collect a lot of them through networking and friends. Camcard is a free app that allows you to scan, manage, and sync your entire collection of business cards so that you can avoid having to store and shuffle through loads of physical versions.

The contact information from each individual card can be quickly and accurately stored to your mobile device so you can instantly contact them by tapping a button. You can also organize all of your cards by adding notes, setting up reminders, and attaching tags to them so that it’s always easy to find and contact the individual you have in mind.

13. Momento

Keeping a journal is a great way to keep track of events and memories so you can reflect on them in the future. To bring it up to speed in today’s mobile tech-driven world, Momento is a smart journal that you can install on your mobile device as an app that helps you privately capture your daily activities, thoughts, ideas, photos, videos, and location check-ins with the opportunity to combine them with the stuff you share on social networks.

Whether you decide to use Momento for professional or personal journaling (or both) is completely up to you. The app gives you an organized timeline of journal entries, which can be expanded on to see stories for each day. You can also see everything in a monthly calendar view and categorize your entries by adding tags to them in order to keep them organized and searchable.

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14. Trello

There’s only so much you can do with a regular to-do list and a calendar when you’ve got multiple projects going on. Trello is a tool that helps you and your team members (if you have a team to collaborate with) keep track of every single detail of each project task in a visual organization system.

You can create a board and then add lists that contain drag-and-drop cards for storing all your information (including photos and attachments) about a specific task. The app is designed to be used for both professional and personal projects that take a lot of planning, collaborating, and multiple task completion. Like Asana, Trello also allows users to have conversations on items and receive notifications so that everyone stays up to date with the latest information.

15. Way of Life

Much of your success comes from the little habits you persistently stick with doing over a period of time. Way of Life is a free app that helps you develop good habits with reminders that you can set up on specific days to help you stay on track. You can even use it to keep track of bad habits.

Once you spend a few days tracking the good habits you’ve stuck with and the bad habits you’ve avoided, you’ll be able to see pie charts and bar charts with trend lines over a specific period to give you a glimpse of your progress. As you keep using the app day after day, you’ll be able to spot both positive and negative trends through the chart data so that you can figure out what’s working and what’s not.

Remember that just signing up for one of these free resources doesn’t guarantee that all your organization and productivity problems will instantly be solved. You have to actually use them to do the necessary work. Try picking one to start with and commit to using it every day.

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Elise Moreau

Elise helps desk workers lead healthier lifestyles. Visit her website on her profile to get a free list of health hacks.

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Last Updated on January 6, 2021

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

3. Create a System

Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

5. Use a Ratings Scale

Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

7. Offer Feedback Forms

Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

8. Track Cost Effectiveness

This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

9. Use Self-Evaluations

Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

10. Monitor Time Management

This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

    The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

    While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

    We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

    Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

    For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

    Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

    Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

    From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

    12. Utilize Peer Feedback

    This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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    Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

    Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

    It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

    13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

    When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

    Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

    Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

    14. Use an External Evaluator

    Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

    They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

    While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

    Final Thoughts

    These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

    The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

    The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

    Reference

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