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10 Apps and Tools to Be More Productive at Work

10 Apps and Tools to Be More Productive at Work

It seems that today everything is about productivity. It is one of the buzzwords, so we hardly ever take a moment to consider its meaning. Of course, it may vary individually, but for most of us, productivity is about avoiding distractions and keeping a focus on the thing we do, while we do them, which at times can be a challenging task. Even if we are determined not to procrastinate and finish the task as soon as possible, the very means of our work can be distractions galore with all the incoming emails, instant messages and social network updates. The tools below will be a helpful addition to your desktop, tablet or phone optimizing your workflow.

1. Rescue Time

Compatibility: Android, Web platforms

Rescue Time is browser and application time meter that runs in the background and gathers information about how much time you spend on work, networking, reading news, etc. It gives you an invaluable insight into your daily habits and helps to boost your productivity. If you feel that you, perhaps, spend too time on a particular app, you can set reminders, urging you to leave it after a specified period. You can also block the most distracting apps and sites if you want the maximum focus for some time. This product has definitely earned its self-explanatory name: using it leads to some unexpected revelations about the amount of time you waste.

2. TickTick

Compatibility: Android, iOS, Web platforms

This simple task management app is notable thanks to its ability to integrate and synchronize across multiple platforms. It also has a number of unique features, such as for example, the possibility to set location-based reminders. They will be triggered by your leaving or arriving at a predefined location, so you will never forget to finish everything before you leave the office and will always remember to pop into the supermarket to complete your grocery list. This to-do app is not limited to lists: it can help you meet deadlines and boost your productivity thanks to customizable reminders, shared lists, voice memos, tags and priority ranking of the tasks.

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3. Workflow

Compatibility: iOS (iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch)

This productivity app was created to streamline your work by making shortcuts between the apps you use most often to complete certain activities. There is an unlimited number of possible connections and combinations, so Workflow watches you work, learns, and then teaches you how to do it more efficiently. It creates your customized unique workflows, which you can save as new widgets on your home screen or try out the workflows other users have created. This versatile personal automation tool will also help you to manage your social media accounts, calendars, maps, media and more.

4. Trello

Compatibility: Android, iOS, Web platforms

Trello is a project management tool with dashboard, lists, notes, tasks, calendars and more. Its kanban-style system is visual and fun to use. The application of the service varies from personal use to project management on a larger scale. The cards and lists can be shared for collaboration or assigned for task delegation. Although there are many other project management services out there that are more powerful, Trello is perfect for personal use thanks to its flexibility and customizability, which makes the work well-organized and enjoyable.

5. Pumpic App

Compatibility: Android, iOS

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Sometimes we fail to concentrate because our mind is miles away occupied with all kinds of worries. Pumpic will take care of one of them that is the most important – the safety of your loved ones. Wherever you are, with this monitoring app for parents, you can always be sure that your child timely arrived at school or returned home thanks to the GPS tracker. It will also track your kids’ phone activity taking care of their online safety by blocking inappropriate content and applications you find objectionable. With this parental app, you will kill two birds with one stone – put your own mind at rest to be more productive, and help your children to concentrate on their homework, by eliminating all the usual distractions.

6. Pocket

Compatibility: Android, iOS, Web platforms

How much time you waste daily because while surfing the Web in search of relevant information, you come across some interesting and useful articles and cannot help but read them, even if their topic has nothing to do with the task you are currently working on? The probable answer is way too much. On the other hand, you would not wish to miss all those exciting facts that may come in handy later. With the Pocket app, you can save and store everything from the Web and social networks you find worth reading or viewing for the later. Now you do not have to choose between pressing tasks and some useful video, and your curiosity is no longer a time thief.

7. Boomerang

Compatibility: Gmail, Outlook, Android

Boomerang is a mailing service that is helpful in many ways, but its best feature is scheduled email sending. For example, you are working late and composing an elaborate letter, but you wish it to be sent during business hours next day. Or you have colleagues on the other side of the globe and you wish to send them reminders just before their lunchtime. This is all possible with Boomerang – set the time and is will mail your letters for you, and the built-in AI will assist you in writing better. Another useful feature – the reminder service can make a very apt CRM tool – now if you do not get a response to your letter, Boomerang will not let you forget about it. On top of this, there is an “Inbox pause” option – you can hold the incoming emails, so they won’t distract you while you are coping with something urgent.

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8. Gero Time Management Companion

Compatibility: iOS (iPhone and Apple Watch)

To be productive, we should work smart, not hard. If you have a habit of plunging into work and emerging 8 hours later exhausted and burnt-out, Gero Time Management Companion is definitely, what you need. This app is a stopwatch of a kind and its main goal is to nudge you to take your well-deserved scheduled breaks. On default, it is 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of downtime, but you can set it to whatever intervals suit you. You can also use this app to remind you to do the eye exercises to prevent vision problems, to take medication or simply to refresh yourself.

9. Reporter

Compatibility: iOS

Reporter is a pocket big-data collecting tool for personal use. This app quizzes you on every aspect of your life, asking questions, such as “How did you sleep?” or “Are you alone?” several times a day, collects data from your GPS and step-tracker, and provides quite an insightful feedback into your daily habits and activities. It cross-references everything, so you can see how your mood influences your productivity and so on. The questions and suggested answers are customizable, so you can tweak your Reporter to make self-tracking and building up a personal database quick and seamless.

10. SaneBox

Compatibility: Android, iOS, Web platforms

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In essence, SaneBox is another time savior and it works with any mailbox. It sorts your emails basing on their priority, which it learns from the way you handle your mail. SaneBox watches which kind of messages you open quickly and leaves them in your inbox while moving less urgent emails to folders you have created. This filter also notes which messages usually stay ignored or end up in a bin. There are many other useful features, such as auto-download of attachments to the cloud, “snooze” that postpones letters until the time you are ready to read them, and various notifications. This service is paid, but it does not require installation, so you can use it on any platform.

Productivity is a skill of making the most of our working hours, so there is more time to enjoy other important things. Hopefully, these tools will be a boon to your productivity and will help you improving your life.

Featured photo credit: Ryo Hirosawa/Flickr via flic.kr

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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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