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New Tools for the New Year: Management

New Tools for the New Year: Management

    This has been a tough year for a lot of businesses. The economy has yet to rebound (it may never fully) and with a downtrodden economic situation often comes a despressed workforce. I’m not talking about the overall unemployment problem; I’m talking about the problem that those who have jobs are dealing with: elevated stress and a heavier workload.

    If you’re a manager of a team or are running your own business that requires you to be a rock solid manager of your own self, there’s rarely a better time than the start of a new year to tweak your system and explore new tools to helpy you with your overall management skills. As part of our year-end New Tools for a New Year series, I’m going to offer some new tools for you to try and help you get a better handle on management in the coming year. Some will be specific tools that require specific time and attention to become familar with, while others will simply be tools that are new in name only – as in, you’ve been using something similar for years and may just need a bit of a reboot to get a jumpstart to the new year.

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    Asana

    You know, I’ve tried a ton of task management apps – both aiming to improve collaboration between teams and aiming to improve individual efforts – and no web app has come close to getting it as right as Asana has. We’ve touched on this new player in the productivity realm before, and I’ll be doing a deeper dive in the next couple of weeks as to what the results of long term use of Asana is.

    The people behind Asana understand that seamless connection is the key to improved productivity – and better management. There’s no bottleneck that they’ve put in place; the information involved with tasks, priorities and assignments can flow as freely as you want. With a new iPhone app now in the App Store, now Asana can go with team members anywhere.

    As for barriers to entry, they are few and far between…if any. Price certainly isn’t one; Asana is free for teams of up to 30 people.

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    If you’re not using a task manager so that you and your team can manage all they’ve got on the go, then Asana is your best bet – bar none.

    37Signals

    Another great resource you should look is to 37Signals. Whether you decide to use any one of the company’s popular software solutions (Highrise, Basecamp, etc.) or start to align your own mandate with theirs, it’s a good place to start.

    Jason Fried has not only put together a stellar team that offers fantastic tools for you to better manage your work and team, but his book REWORK (co-authored by David Heinemeier Hansson) is required reading for any manager or entrepreneur trying to make their way in the world today.

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    Oh, and his TED talk on “Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work” is another great thing to let your eyes – and brain – absorb.

    MeetingBurner

    Another thing that can really slow down workflow and kill momentum is meetings. Whether it is through overkill or unwieldy tools or distraction, meetings can hinder progress more than help it along. Even iwth the advent of online meetings through Skype or similar tools haven’t made meetings really all that better.

    But MeetingBurner can change all of that.

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    It’s simple to use, incredibly robust and flexible (it can be used for webinars, for example) and you can get in and out of it as needed. We’re going to take a more comprehensive look at MeetingBurner in the coming weeks, but let me say now that going to a meeting – online or off – hasn’t been terribly pleasant for me until this service came along. MeetingBurner’s mission says it all:

    “The world wastes billions of dollars per year in inefficient and ineffective meetings and we are going to change that. With MeetingBurner we want to build a community of online meeting fanatics who want to change the world by making meeting easier, faster, and more efficient.”

    I think perhaps the idea that you can burn through a meeting and have more takeaways than giveaways says something for progress in this area of technology. It’s worth checking out if you’re looking to have the same effect on your management results.

    Conclusion

    You want to start off the new year right, putting your best foot forward in your work and in life. Giving these new tools a test run to start things off in 2012 may just extend the reach of your foot that much further.

    (Photo credit: Businessman Cheers with his Tablet via Shutterstock)

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    Mike Vardy

    A productivity specialist who shows you how to define your day, funnel your focus, and make every moment matter.

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    Last Updated on May 20, 2020

    What Are Analytical Skills (And How to Strengthen Them For Success)

    What Are Analytical Skills (And How to Strengthen Them For Success)

    Everybody makes bad decisions. Some people, however, are more capable of making better decisions that inch them closer to success.

    These individuals are not ruled by emotions, desires, or hunches. Rather, they depend on their analytical skills to overcome challenges regardless of urgency or complexity.

    What Are Analytical Skills?

    According to Richards J. Heuer Jr., a former veteran of the CIA,[1]

    “Thinking analytically is a skill like carpentry or driving a car. It can be taught, it can be learned, and it can improve with practice. But unlike other skills, it is not learned by sitting in a classroom and being told how to do it. Analysts learn by doing.”

    Analytical skills can be considered as one of the critical life skills that are not taught in schools. It comprises of visualization, critical thinking, and abilities for gathering and processing information.

    Here’s a closer look at some of these abilities:

    Visualization

    Also tied to a person’s creativity, visualization is the ability to predict the possible outcomes of strategies and actions. In a professional setting, visualization involves the analysis of data – often through illustrations like charts, graphs, and detailed lists.

    Critical Thinking

    Simply put, a person’s ability to think critically can be measured by his or her consistency in creating reasonable decisions. It pertains to the ability to evaluate information, siphon what’s useful, and draw conclusions without being swayed by emotions.

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    As a critical thinker, you’ll find yourself challenging assertions and finding loopholes in proposed solutions.

    Computing

    Whether you like it or not, you need to be comfortable with numbers if you want to sharpen your analytical skills. Bear in mind that computing encompasses other skills like cost analysis, budgeting, and performing general calculations.

    In business, you need to use computations when weighing the risks and benefits of any given strategy.

    Problem-Solving

    Remember that analytical skills are used not just to understand problems, but also to develop the most suitable course or courses of action. This relates to your goal-setting skills, which involve breaking down and prioritizing between objectives.

    Resource Management

    Lastly, analytical skills involve some degree of resource management depending on the task at hand.

    For example, professionals with a tight schedule must know how to effectively manage their own time – also known as one of the most important resources in the world.

    Business leaders, on the other hand, must know how to manage company resources, including cash and manpower. Take note that the definition of analytical skills may change to match the requirements of a specific situation.

    For example, upon hiring a web developer, analytical skills may refer to the ability to determine the needs of online users, understand web analytics for optimization, and identify visual elements that can match a company’s brand.

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    The skillset above, however, should be applicable in most if not all scenarios.

    Develop Your Analytical Skills for More Growth Opportunities

    There’s no question that the right decisions lead to positive results. It doesn’t matter if you’re running a business or simply trying to climb the corporate ladder. By training your analytical skills, you position yourself for more growth opportunities while staying away from negligible actions you will regret.

    For example, you plan to launch a new startup in your local community – but struggle to decide the niche you want to enter. Since you’ve been a technophile your whole life, part of you desires to invest in a gadget store. If you’re passionate about your business, success will come – right?

    If you have sharp analytical skills, you begin to see your plans in whole new dimensions.

    What are the possible outcomes of this venture? Does the local market have a need for a new gadget store? How much do I need to get started – and how much should I sell to make a profit?

    Depending on your findings, you can determine the feasibility of your business idea without letting your emotions get in the way.

    6 Ways to Strengthen Your Analytical Skills

    There are several approaches when it comes to developing an individual’s analytical skills. For instance, psychologists agree that reading fantasy stories as a child can help sharpen critical thinking.[2]

    Research also suggests that undergoing traditional education has a positive effect on a person’s IQ and analytical skills.[3]

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    But as an adult, such opportunities to hone your analytical skills no longer apply. That’s why you need to devise a more deliberate, active approach yourself.

    Below are a few strategies to get you started:

    1. Ideate Business Ideas

    Developing a profitable business idea, whether you pursue them or not, involves numerous challenges. You need a ton of research, computations, and problem-solving to create a tangible business plan.

    You can organize your ideas with a note-taking tool like Microsoft OneNote or Evernote. Doing so will allow you to delve deeper into your analysis, organize your findings, and stay focused on roadblocks as well as how to solve them.

    2. Leverage Analytical Tools

    Aside from note-taking tools, you can also leverage other software that can help with analytical tasks. A money management app like Mint, for example, makes it easy to track your spending habits as well as manage your budget with visual tools. When it comes to prioritizing goals, you can use simple task management apps like Trello or Wunderlist.

    3. Have a Personal Learning Library

    Thanks to the internet, there’s a colossal amount of resources you can utilize to learn new skills, expand your vocabulary, and train your visualization muscles.

    Social media networks like SlideShare and YouTube, for example, offer mountains of tutorials you can access to your heart’s content.

    For a personalized learning library, you can download Instagram videos or GIFs from educational accounts like NASA Goddard and the American Mathematical Society. But if you prefer specific, technical skills, then a good place to start would be online learning platforms like Coursera, edX, and Alison.

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    4. Participate in Online Communities

    The internet is a great place to share experiences, opinions, and sometimes intellectual discussions with like-minded individuals. Reddit, for example, has a place or “subreddit” dedicated for every topic imaginable – from technology to entrepreneurship.

    For structured debates, you can head to websites like Debate.org and let other users choose the winner via votes.

    5. Seek Mental Stimulation

    To keep your mind sharp, make it a habit to engage in mentally stimulating activities, such as chess, puzzles, and brain training apps. A great resource would be Lumosity, which contains dozens of cognitive games designed by teams of scientists and game designers.

    6. Keep a Personal Journal

    Finally, keeping a personal journal allows you to take a second look at everything that happened in your day.

    Remember that writing about learning experiences lets you focus on the lesson rather than the emotion. It will help you analyze how you made your decisions, why you came to certain conclusions, and what you can do to improve in the future.

    Here’s How to Create a Habit of Writing in a Journal.

    Bottom Line

    As an adult, you are required to face a myriad of challenges on a daily basis. Work, school, business, relationships – the list goes on when it comes to the sources of life’s problems. With analytical skills, you can confront and overcome any obstacle standing between you and your goals.

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    Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] M. S. Ramaiah University of Applied Sciences: Analytical Thinking?
    [2] KD Novelties: Why You Should Read Classic Tales to Your Children
    [3] Economic Inquiry: The Effect of Education on Cognitive Ability

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